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.

And if you need to know the COVID-19 entry rules and restrictions for destinations worldwide, check out our interactive map, powered by Sherpa, for up-to-date, country-by-country information.

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.

Note: This page was updated on Sept. 10, 2021.


Advertisement

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.


Advertisement

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.

Bookmark this guide to when and how domestic destinations will reopen.

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 Getty Images

Drive-to destinations will return first. Credit 2020 Getty Images

LEARN MORE:


Advertisement

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.

Bookmark this guide to when and how international destinations will reopen.

LEARN MORE:


Advertisement

Many destinations are taking a multiphase approach to reopening for tourism. Credit 2021 Irina/stock.adobe.com

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

How will cruising and river cruising change due to COVID-19?

As 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. And check out Cruise Travel Trends and Innovations Advisors Can Expect for more insight on how the cruise industry is expected to evolve.

LEARN MORE:


Advertisement

Cruise passengers should expect changes such as limited guest capacity and stricter sanitation protocols. Credit 2021 dbvirago/stock.adobe.com

Cruise passengers should expect changes such as limited guest capacity and stricter sanitation protocols. Credit 2021 dbvirago/stock.adobe.com

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, contactless service and the health and safety of guests will be of high priority for hotels. Some brands, for example, debuted "room seals" to indicate if a guestroom has been fully sanitized. Meanwhile, new cleaning technology includes electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant, and other measures.

Read more about numerous hotel cleanliness initiatives.

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

Hotels are mobilizing to create more sanitary spaces and safer experiences. Credit 2020 space_cat/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.

LEARN MORE:


Advertisement

What is the government doing to help small businesses? What aid programs are available to travel agencies? Who is advocating for the travel industry right now?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020, 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.

Since then, a variety of new relief legislation has been introduced and passed; but with 65% of all U.S. jobs lost in 2020 being from the travel industry, and losses totaling $4.5 trillion for the global travel and tourism sector last year, more help is clearly needed. Organizations like ASTA continue to advocate for the endangered businesses that make up the travel industry, and encourage advisors to take action by contacting their Congressional representatives. Industry organizations also agree that governments need to provide guidelines for a safe restart to the travel industry, and continue to push for a roadmap to begin that recovery.

LEARN MORE:


Advertisement

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, 2020. Since then, protocols have been issued for aviation, airlines, MICE, tour operators, attractions, car hire, short-term rental, adventure travel and more.

What's more, the WTTC introduced a Safe Travels Stamp that allows travelers to recognize destinations and businesses around the world that have adopted the standardized global health and safety protocols.

Read more about WTTC's Safe Travels protocols and stamp here.

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

Safety measures are intended to rebuild confidence in travelers. Credit 2020 kawee/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, 2020.

The guidelines (which continue to be updated, most recently on March 1, 2021) 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. And stay up to date by regularly checking the Travel in the New Normal guidelines for updates.

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, so too do experts' recommendations and the travel industry's response. Be sure to regularly check the latest guidance from the CDC, and stay in touch with individual suppliers to understand their specific protocols and procedures before clients travel.


Advertisement

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.

LEARN MORE:


Advertisement

How are global vaccination efforts affecting travel? What's the deal with testing requirements for travel?

Overall, vaccinations have been good news for the travel industry, boosting client confidence, optimism and intent to travel. U.S. Travel Leaders Network, for instance, recently found that vaccinated Americans are more likely to book travel, and Longwoods International reported a surge in trip planning coinciding with the distribution of vaccines. An increasing number of destinations are also easing their entry restrictions and requirements for vaccinated travelers, while some cruise lines are requiring staff and guests to be vaccinated before sailing.

When it comes to travel-related COVID-19 testing, as of Jan. 26, 2021, an order from the CDC requires all air passengers entering the U.S. present to a negative COVID-19 test. In response, many destinations (particularly in Mexico and the Caribbean) have made testing easily available and affordable for international travelers. Check with individual hotels and tour operators to see what they're offering, as well as their policies in the event a traveler does test positive.

LEARN MORE:

Traveler optimism is rising as vaccine rollout continues. Credit 2021 P&G/stock.adobe.com

Traveler optimism is rising as vaccine rollout continues. Credit 2021 P&G/stock.adobe.com


Advertisement

What is a COVID-19 vaccine passport? Will vaccine passports be required to travel?

As more and more people around the globe get vaccinated and an increasing number of destinations ease their entry requirements for vaccinated individuals, it stands to reason that the travel industry would benefit from a system that allows travelers to easily and securely show proof of their vaccine status. To this end, airlines and others within the travel industry are in favor of so-called "vaccine passports," (also referred to as "health certificates" or "travel passes") that would digitally store information about a traveler's vaccination status and/or recent negative COVID-19 tests. Recent research shows that travelers are in favor of vaccine passports, too.

A variety of technology companies and travel trade groups are currently developing and testing versions of this idea. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), for instance, is currently testing its digital IATA Travel Pass, while the European Commission has proposed use of the Digital Green Pass. The Biden administration has said that it won't build a national vaccination app for the U.S., resulting in individual solutions such as New York's introduction of IBM's Excelsior Pass as part of an effort to fast-track the reopening of businesses. (More updates on vaccine passport developments can be found on our COVID-19 live blog.)

What remains unclear, however, is whether any particular passport(s) will be broadly accepted around the world, and if they will be required for travel. If implemented, it's most likely that vaccine passports would be required for international travel, though some domestic businesses (such as entertainment venues) might adopt the practice, as well. Additional challenges facing the initiatives include questions like how to prevent forged records and how to protect health privacy. Learn more here: Is It Legal for Countries to Require Vaccine Passports?


Advertisement

Vaccine passports could give the travel industry a much-needed boost. Credit: 2020 DavideAngelini/stock.adobe.com

Vaccine passports could give the travel industry a much-needed boost. Credit: 2020 DavideAngelini/stock.adobe.com

What are some productive ways that travel advisors and suppliers can utilize downtime? How can agents rethink and grow their businesses?

In anticipation of tourism's return, savvy travel advisors and suppliers are staying productive. Many are taking advantage of free online courses and other continuing education opportunities, while others are tapping into resources made available by their consortia and host agencies. Some agents are even taking this opportunity to come up with creative new business ideas and partnerships.

We'd also recommend giving 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. And if you're in a problem-solving mood, our new Trade Secrets podcast, co-hosted by Travel Weekly, tackles travel advisors' most pressing business questions with the help of veteran agents.

LEARN MORE:

Travel advisors are using the pandemic to create inventive new business opportunities for themselves and others. Credit: 2021 Urupong/stock.adobe.com

Travel advisors are using the pandemic to create inventive new business opportunities for themselves and others. Credit: 2021 Urupong/stock.adobe.com


Advertisement

What are other travel advisors seeing, thinking and booking right now?

Our “Need to Know” research series seeks to answer those very questions. TravelAge West is tracking the responses of advisors as they relate to various travel trends and topics, from group travel to testing requirements, cruising, diversity and more. You can check out the whole Need to Know series here, or browse some recent topics below.

LEARN MORE:


Advertisement

How are consortia and host agencies 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.

LEARN MORE:


Advertisement

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.

LEARN MORE:


Advertisement
Advertisement