WTTC Unveils Protocols to Encourage Return of Airline Travel

Johannesburg – The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) said on Friday it had unveiled the second phase of measures to rebuild global consumer confidence to encourage the return of travelling in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Airline travel has been largely grounded due to the novel virus which has seen nearly six million people infected globally since late December while more than 362 000 have lost their lives.

In a statement, the WTTC said the latest protocols were designed to drive the return of safe travel and enable namely tour operators and convention centres, meetings and events to thrive once again.

It said detailed discussions had taken place with key stakeholders and organisations to ensure maximum buy-in, alignment and practical implementation and set clear expectations of what travellers may experience in the ‘new normal’.

“For the first time ever, the global private sector has rallied around our Safe Travels protocols which will create the consistency needed to allow a re-invigorated travel and tourism sector re-open for business,” WTTC president and chief executive officer Gloria Guevara said.

“Among the most important of these measures are those which will enable the aviation sector to take-off. Aviation’s return is critical to help repower the global economic recovery.”

The aviation protocols were created in close collaboration with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airports Council International (ACI).

“Our industry has been brought to a standstill,” ACI World director general Angela Gittens said.

“A balanced and effective restart and recovery of the global travel and tourism sector depends on collaboration among the key participants in this ecosystem.”

IATA director general and chief executive Alexandre de Juniac said Covid-19 was a gamechanger for the travel and tourism sector, requiring stakeholders to enhance the approach to health and safety to protect travellers and the industry’s workforce.

Backed by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the new protocols will recognise businesses and governments worldwide which have adopted them to rebuild confidence among consumers, encourage the return of safe travel and enable the travel and tourism sector to reopen for business.

Under the measures, airports will implement enhanced cleaning including self-service equipment, baggage trolleys, counters, buggies, security checkpoints, washrooms, elevators, handrails, boarding areas and common areas with a specific focus on high-frequency touch points.

They will provide personal protection equipment to staff such as masks and put up new signage and announcements to limit interaction and queuing at touchpoints.

Airlines will also provide personal protection equipment to staff and reduce passengers’ touchpoints through online check-in before departure, the use of self-check in kiosks and bag drop, home-printed bag tags, the greater use of biometric e-gates and boarding card reading at gates.

Tour operators will ensure enhanced sanitation, disinfection and deep cleaning practices for coaches and other vehicles and explore staggered timing for access to venues, hotels and restaurants, among other measures.

Additional and separate measures for the cruises sector and insurance businesses, amongst others, are currently in development.

According to the WTTC’s 2020 economic impact report, last year the travel and tourism sector was responsible for one in 10, or about 330 million jobs and made a 10.3 percent contribution to global gross domestic product.