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I have always appreciated how tour operators touch all aspects of the travel industry. They work with airlines, hotels, activities, attractions and, in many cases, even cruise and river cruise lines. In this issue’s cover story, How Top Tour Operators Have Adapted to COVID-19, we take a look at how — in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic — tour companies have made the pivot to domestic travel, giving the entire industry more options in this difficult time.
In the past, many tour operators have enjoyed the fact that they are not tied down by brick-and-mortar hotels, fleets of ships and port infrastructure. This gives many companies the flexibility to adjust to global conflicts in a more nimble way.
As we watch suppliers conform to the new reality, one thing I hope we don’t see is a rush to get travelers on the road again before it is safe. I’m all for the quick return of travel, but we need to understand that our industry is not only dealing with the reality of the pandemic, but also the public’s perception about what’s safe and what’s not. Headlines proclaiming the grand opening of a resort or the relaunching of a cruise itinerary are great — but they do more damage than good if they are soon followed by a fresh outbreak of coronavirus cases.
A recent Longwoods International survey shows that consumers have less trust in sources providing pandemic guidelines. The percentage of respondents relying on information about the safety of travel from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other federal health agencies has dropped from 57% on April 22 to 45% on July 29. During that same time period, confidence in the White House Coronavirus Task Force also declined from 24% to 17%, and reliance on information from state health officials slipped from 36% to 27%.
Premature declarations that it’s all-clear to travel will just add to this mistrust.
As we once again strive to make dream trips a reality, all of us have an obligation to safeguard clients’ faith in our industry. That is the surest path to future success.