Published on : Monday, June 29, 2020
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) recently announced a new set of guidelines for ‘Safe and Seamless Travel’ with the aim of ensuring people to enjoy Safe Travels in the ‘new normal’. The guidelines include testing and tracing, following medical evidence. The new guidelines plans to make sure that the travel sector is provided with an extensive framework to help governments and private business work in collaboration to create aligned testing and contact tracing programs. The latest initiative is part of WTTC’s Safe and Seamless Traveller Journey (SSTJ) protocol that is also working towards enabling a seamless, safe and secure end-to-end traveller experience including flights and non-air travel. It talks about the need of systematic biometric verified identification in place of manual verification during any particular journey for long haul and international travel. It says that with the help of contactless technology travellers and workers of the travel and tourism sector can be assured of a more secure and safe travel environment.
According to medical experts, 80% of COVID-19 carriers are asymptomatic hence testing and tracing are crucial methods to control and reduce virus transmission. With regard to previous cases of virus outbreaks such as Ebola, SARS and MERS, detection and isolation of infected people has proved to be an effective mechanism to curb the spread of the virus and has allowed individuals to travel again without a vaccine. WTTC states that such methods to reduce transmission in the post-COVID world would include biometrics, faster clearance for inbound and outbound passengers and offsite processing, all of which are part of enhanced SSTJ capabilities.
WTTC’s latest guidelines have been established after extensive consultation with various stakeholders, including WTTC Members, health experts and government officials as well as in line with guidance provided by WHO and CDC and ICAO CART take off guidance. The report has been produced by WTTC in collaboration with global management consultants, Oliver Wyman who conducted the consultations. The resulting principles and recommendations of the new guideline frameworks will help governments who require testing, tracing, receipt of a traveller test or vaccination certificate and COVID-19 specific traveller health insurance to include them as part of their overall recovery plan. At present WTTC aims to ensure aligned and consistent messaging through coordinated, collaborative, and transparent partnerships by encouraging global adoption of the guidelines across the entire travel and tourism sector.
Under the initiative WTTC has identified five crucial calls to action and urged governments across the globe to consider the necessities as a part of COVID-19 recovery process. It outlined that governments need to support and arrange for rapid and reliable tests as a critical path to ensure public health safety. It says that a rapid testing and contact tracing strategy should be introduced by all destinations to help contain the spread of coronavirus infections. The measures also focus on the need of multilateral collaboration and adherence to internationally recognised guidelines to enable ‘approved travellers’ to travel across multiple destinations using a single process and risk assessment framework. It also urged governments to support travel ‘bubbles’ or ‘tourism corridors’ between low-risk COVID-19 areas, zones or countries based on recognised criteria of low, medium and high risk as approved by origin government and the destination government. It mentions that these bubbles and corridors may help to limit testing requirements for travellers and support the recovery. It also requested destinations to remove blanket travel advisories and recommendations against non-essential international travel as this prevents insurance protection for travellers, as countries began opening once again. In addition, it also asks to support a global standard of traveller health insurance, or at least minimum requirements defined with private sector insurance companies.
Gloria Guevara, President and CEO, WTTC said in a press statement that in a time when safety and hygiene of travellers is paramount, the new guidelines for ‘Safe and Seamless Travel’ including testing and tracing have been designed to assist in the recovery of travel and tourism sector through the identification and isolation of infected travellers. She shared that the latest measures are in line with advice from WHO and other leading health authorities that confirms that the best way to control and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, is through early identification of carriers and by ensuring that they do not travel. She mentioned that the new WTTC guidelines mean the confusing mix of different measures including the present highly-damaging quarantine rules can be replaced to offer confidence to travellers as well as government while protecting public health. She also shared that the idea of travel ‘bubbles’ or ‘corridors’ between low-risk COVID-19 area, zones and countries will also help limit testing requirements for travellers and support efforts by governments and private businesses working in partnership together to stimulate traveller demand.