The Long Haul
Global Traveler|January/February 2021
The travel industry navigates through the landscape of a global pandemic.
SUSAN B. BARNES
It is hard to imagine that when we first heard about COVID-19 last year, anyone could have predicted the immense impact the pandemic would have on global economies and industries and the health and well-being of people all around the world. According to the U.S. Travel Association, the national nonprofit organization representing all components of the U.S. travel industry, pre-pandemic the industry generated $2.6 trillion in economic output and supported 15.8 million jobs. Though travel continues to come back, a year later the industry is still unpacking the impact of the stoppage of travel worldwide and its gradual return.

In its U.S. Travel Forecast released in November 2020, the U.S. Travel Association noted the total travel spending in the United States in 2019 was $1.13 trillion; the forecast for 2020 was $617 billion. Through 2024, the association projects the figure will climb back to its pre-pandemic figures with $1.1 trillion of total travel spending in the United States.

These figures are U.S.-focused, but the impact affects the travel industry worldwide.

That is not to say no one is traveling, however. As people learn how to keep themselves and each other safe in their communities and workplaces, they gain confidence to get back out into the world, too.

Here we take a look at how the industry is navigating travel during the global health crisis, a year later. Keep in mind, however, guidelines around the pandemic are fluid and can change at a moment’s notice. Expert resources to check for updated information and guidelines are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Additionally, take some time to check in with local authorities where you may be traveling, as well as airlines, cruise lines, tour operators and meeting and event planners to learn what guidelines and protocols may be in place.

WHEN NEWS OF THE PANDEMIC HIT, flights around the world were grounded for the most part as airlines scrambled to determine how best to keep passengers safe and healthy when they resumed flying. Most major airlines implemented requirements for traveling onboard, including wearing masks and/or face coverings for the duration of flights as well as in the airport. Many airlines limited in-flight services to minimize hand-to-hand contact, and until recently, some had modified boarding procedures and blocked aircraft seats to increase distancing between passengers. Delta Air Lines announced it will continue blocking middle seats and limiting onboard capacity across its fleet through March 30, 2021.

Seemingly across the board, airlines ensured all of the aircraft in their fleets use HEPA air filters that remove 99.97 percent of airborne particles, similar to those used in hospitals. They ramped up cleaning procedures as well and commonly include deep-cleaning procedures on each plane, from nose to tail. This includes using an electrostatic disinfectant and antimicrobial spray applied to high-touch surfaces such as seats, seatbelts, armrests, tray tables, overhead bin handles, flight attendant call buttons and onboard lavatories. For more on how your airline is keeping you safe during travel, check the COVID19 section on its website.

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