Coronavirus and Travel: Frequently Asked Questions

Everything that travel advisors need to know about COVID-19 and its impact on the travel industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of the travel industry, and its fallout has greatly impacted travel advisors and their businesses, as well.

TravelAge West has been working around the clock to equip advisors with the important and helpful information they need at this time. This FAQ page organizes the most critical questions that advisors have, along with answers supported by our editorial coverage.

Have a question related to COVID-19 that you don't see on this page? Please send an inquiry to [email protected] — we would love to hear from you.


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Where can I find the latest news related to travel and COVID-19?

Bookmark this page for all of our exclusive and in-depth coronavirus coverage, in addition to our Live Blog, which features live updates from around the web.


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How does the CARES Act affect me? What are the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27 to address the U.S.'s economic repercussions from the pandemic — and to offer travel advisors some much-needed financial relief.

The inclusion of travel advisors in the bill was largely due to the efforts of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), who have been relentlessly advocating on behalf of U.S. travel agencies at the government level. However, actually benefiting from the CARES Act hasn't come easy for advisors.

A key component of the CARES Act, the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — handled by the Small Business Administration (SBA) — was designed to incentivize companies to keep workers under their payroll with low-interest, forgivable loans of up to $10 million for independent contractors (ICs), the self-employed and companies with fewer than 500 employees.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which existed prior to the coronavirus outbreak, added a coronavirus-era provision that allowed small businesses and ICs to receive up to $10,000 in the form of a cash advance that did not have to be repaid while they wait for the rest of the loan to be doled out.

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What general health and safety protocols should travelers expect moving forward?

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) officially launched its “Safe Travels” protocols for hotels and retail on May 12. (Cruise and aviation protocols are to come.)

For the hospitality industry, key measures include revisiting guidance for cleaning teams for all areas of a hotel, especially high-frequency touch points; ensuring social distancing for guests through signage; removing all extraneous items from the hotel; and more.

Read the full list of the WTTC's official protocols for hospitality and retail.

Safety measures are intended to rebuild confidence in travelers. Credit 2020 Boyan Dimitrov/stock.adobe.com

Safety measures are intended to rebuild confidence in travelers. Credit 2020 Boyan Dimitrov/stock.adobe.com

The U.S. Travel Association also shared its own set of safety and hygiene protocols, called “Travel in the New Normal," on May 4.

The guidelines instruct travel businesses to adopt and implement enhanced sanitation procedures; to install touchless solutions when practical; to promote health screening measures for employees; and to isolate workers with COVID-19 symptoms.

Read more about key safety and hygiene protocols from the U.S. Travel Association.


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How will the hotel industry and the home-sharing market change?

As hoteliers grapple with drastically reduced occupancy rates due to the coronavirus pandemic, they’re also mobilizing to create safer and more sanitary spaces to make guests feel comfortable when they return.

Cleanliness, and the health and safety of guests, will be of high priority for hotels. Hilton, for example, will debut "room seals" to indicate if a guestroom has been fully sanitized. Meanwhile, Marriott International will be employing new cleaning technology such as electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant.

Read more about numerous new hotel cleanliness initiatives.

Hotels are mobilizing to create safer and more sanitary spaces. Credit 2020 Boyloso/stock.adobe.com

Hotels are mobilizing to create safer and more sanitary spaces. Credit 2020 Boyloso/stock.adobe.com

Homes & Villas by Marriott International and OnefineStay are two stakeholders in the home-sharing market that offer commission for travel advisor bookings.

Both companies say that they have changed their cancellation policies to be more forgiving; already stringent health and safety measures are ramping up; entire home rentals will see a faster recovery; and more.

Read more about the state of the commissionable home-sharing market in the age of COVID-19.


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How will cruising and river cruising change?

When cruise travel returns, it will undoubtedly look different than before the COVID-19 outbreak ran the industry into the ground. However, it’s not all bad news, as most of these changes are in the best interest of clients.

In 8 Ways Cruising Is Likely to Change in the Short Term, we discuss short-term enhancements, which include smaller fleets with fewer staff; limited guest capacity; immunity passports and testing; and more.

Also, don't miss our updated guides to cancellation policies and relaunched sailings for ocean cruise lines; expedition and small-ship cruise lines; and river cruise lines.

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Cruise passengers should expect changes such as limited guest capacity and stricter sanitation protocols. Credit 2020 Watman/stock.adobe.com

Credit 2020 Watman/stock.adobe.com

Where will travelers go first?

Data shows that travelers intend to go local once tourism reopens. According to marketing firm MMGY Global, traveler sentiment related to COVID-19 reveals that 68% of North Americans feel safe in their personal cars while 14% would feel safe taking a domestic flight. This indicates that drive-to destinations are likely to come back first.

Travel advisors are pivoting to meet this demand, acting quickly to prepare domestic trip recommendations — read about the local destinations they are recommending to their clients.

Drive-to destinations will return first. Credit 2020 Alena Ozerova/stock.adobe.com

Drive-to destinations will return first. Credit 2020 Alena Ozerova/stock.adobe.com

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What about international destinations?

International destinations are also preparing to reopen to tourism, though the process will likely be a slower one compared to domestic tourism. Still, popular destinations are diligently working toward gradual reopenings, complete with multiple phases in line with government regulations and health and safety measures.

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Many destinations are taking a multiphase approach to reopening for tourism. Credit 2020 Jkraft5/stock.adobe.com

Many destinations are taking a multiphase approach to reopening for tourism. Credit 2020 Jkraft5/stock.adobe.com

What does flying look like now?

Empty planes and terminals are an eerie reality, according to flight crew members who shared their thoughts with TravelAge West on what it's really like to fly now.

Clients should expect a very different experience than during pre-pandemic days.

“In many ways the airlines have done an excellent job because they’ve taken a lot of actions to reduce our contact with the passengers,” said Boston-based flight attendant Antonio Lopez. “They’ve reduced or eliminated in-flight service, even in first class. We don’t serve any food; we don’t serve any alcohol or other beverages. Anything that has to do with being in contact with passengers has been reduced or eliminated.”


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How will the relationships between suppliers and travel advisors change?

As a result of problematic policies, the pandemic will whittle down the pool of suppliers that advisors decide to work with in the future, says Terry Dale, president and CEO of United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA).

"Those who help each other through a crisis like this will have a bond that lasts a lifetime," Dale said. "But for those who fall short, it will be hard. We need to be there for one another as a travel community, especially in times like this. You can show your true colors, both in a good way and a bad way."

Read more about the ways the relationship between suppliers and travel advisors will change.

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Will the coronavirus affect the sustainable travel movement?

All in all, travel experts are hopeful that COVID-19’s impact won’t undermine sustainability progress from recent years — but such an undertaking will call for all hands on deck by travel advisors, suppliers and consumers.

"Companies that engage in sustainable tourism have been waiting for consumers to catch up, and this pandemic will lead to a tipping point where the heightened level of awareness makes sustainability not just good practice, but good business as well," said Jessica Hall Upchurch, vice-chair and sustainability strategist at Virtuoso.

Read more about how the tourism industry can take lessons learned from the pandemic to retool travel to be more sustainable.

Now's the time for the travel industry to consider important issues such as overtourism, climate change and more. Credit 2020 Brian Jackson/stock.adobe.com

Now's the time for the travel industry to consider important issues such as overtourism, climate change and more. Credit 2020 Brian Jackson/stock.adobe.com


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What is the current state of brick-and-mortar agencies?

Brick-and-mortar agencies have experienced more than their fair share of challenges. Not only have they seen a painful drop in bookings, but they've also had to close their storefront businesses that typically help drive business.

As a result, many have rethought their strategies to stay visible to clients as well as learn how to effectively work from home (such as hiring an IT specialist and freezing unnecessary utilities).

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How can I cultivate strong relationships with my clients who aren't traveling at the moment?

Travel advisors who have pivoted how they typically build relationships with clients (and suppliers) are onto something: Now's the time to get creative, and many advisors have done just that.

From mailing handwritten notes and gifting personalized "Stay at Home" boxes that benefit front-line workers, to hosting lead-generating Zoom parties (complete with thematic food-and-drink pairings), there are numerous ways to keep clients engaged despite the current circumstances.

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Many travel advisors are having to rework their social media strategy. Credit 2020 Urupong/stock.adobe.com

Many travel advisors are having to rework their social media strategy. Credit 2020 Urupong/stock.adobe.com

How should I engage in social media right now?

Out of sight can mean out of mind — which is why advisors should ensure that their online identity remains in front of clients. Tweak your social media strategy to foster a deeper connection with your community.

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How can I keep clients inspired for future travel?

Virtual experiences might not have the full appeal and magic of being IRL (in real life), but there's something to be said about their uptick in use to evoke wanderlust.

Advisors can pique the interest of future travelers this way, and numerous destinations, tour operators, hotels and other suppliers are putting an imaginative twist on their offerings. Think tasting classes that send cheese and chocolates to interested participants ahead of time; at-home workouts and stress management tools designed to help ease the mind; and much more.

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How are consortia supporting their members during this crisis?

Consortia are another vital aspect in how the travel community can stay united — and feel championed — during these challenging times. Their teams are committed to supporting their members with relevant tools and resources, including crisis management plans, informative videos, frequently updated government information, marketing material and much more.

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How are other advisors dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses?

Immediately following the outbreak of COVID-19, we reached out to members of the TravelAge West Agent Advisory Board to share what it's like being a travel professional in a time where we are not encouraged or able to travel, as well as how they have adjusted to this new existence.

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What if I just need a break from all the stress?

Listen, we totally get it. It's easy to get wrapped up in our society's "go, go, go" mentality, especially during such a tumultuous and uncertain period where everyone is simply trying to stay afloat.

First, we recommend reading "3 Transformational Wellness Tools That Can Help Manage Stress," written by Linden Schaffer, founder and CEO of wellness travel company Pravassa. In the op-ed, she recommends valuable tools such as walking meditation, journaling and staying connected to our travel community.

Don't neglect your mental health. Credit 2020 Prostock Studio/stock.adobe.com

Don't neglect your mental health. Credit 2020 Prostock Studio/stock.adobe.com

Grace McBride, founder of TripKit, also shares an interesting perspective on why her travel business is social distancing from marketing right now. Despite her initial instinct to mirror the strategies of other businesses and to be hyper-present on social media, she soon realized a different truth: She needed time to reflect on what actually works for her and her business at this time.

We also advise to take a break from work, go outside (with a mask on and with social distancing in mind) and give our podcast, Humans of Travel, a listen. Each episode features an honest conversation with an exceptional individual in the travel industry, and we hope that it will inspire and invigorate you.


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I could use some positivity. Remind me: Why did I become a travel agent in the first place?

The priceless value of a travel advisor has never resonated more throughout the travel community, as advisors have overcome challenge after challenge during the COVID-19 crisis.

At TravelAge West, we’re in complete awe of our travel advisor readers — especially for their fierce dedication and tireless work ethic. In the last few weeks, they’ve brought their clients safely back home; secured refunds and future credits; adapted or salvaged trips for the unforeseen future; and so much more.

Simply put: It’s a trying period for travel advisors, so we asked 16 advisors to share why they love their profession — even in times like these.

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