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Travel Industry Hopeful New Safety Guidelines Will Help Bring It Back To Life

Photo of the bottom of an airplane
Brian Albers
/
KUER
Utah's Tourism Office predicts it will take two years for the state industry to get back to where it was last year.

As Utah and several other states begin to reopen sections of their economies, the U.S. Travel Association released guidelines Monday for how to safely bring the nation’s tourism industry back to life. 

The guidelines are based on recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and similar to those issued by other industries. They include steps like cleaning more frequently, screening employees for coronavirus symptoms as well as limiting customer and staff interactions.

“Each company will use these recommendations and build upon them,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the travel association. “But travelers should know that the entire travel ecosystem is focused on common practices moving forward.”

Dow said establishing safety rules for the industry is a critical step to getting it back to work following a near complete shutdown. In April, travel was down 87% from the same time last year. A third of all the jobs lost in the U.S due to the pandemic are tourism-related. 

In Utah, where tourism dollars have been halted for close to two months, travel businesses expect to have half the employees they had last summer, according to Vicki Varela, director of the state’s tourism office. She said consumers were spending almost $26 million per day in Utah at this time last year, but right now it’s about 10% of that and will likely take at least two years to get back to 2019 levels. 

“This is going to be a very difficult journey back for our industry,” she said. 

And with international travel still mostly uncertain, Varela said she expects most visitors this summer will be Utahns or those that live nearby and can take road trips here. 

She said one of the biggest barriers the industry faces is the perception around travel safety, but businesses are operating differently now. A recent survey conducted by the tourism office found that 88% of businesses have adopted increased safety measures.

“It’s super important for us to get to 100% on that,” Varela said. “And for consumers to know that as they gradually increase their travel around the state that they will be safe, that good practices are in place.”

Still, she said just as travelers have a responsibility to protect the state’s public lands, they also have a responsibility to keep themselves safe too. She said a major part of the tourism office’s messaging going forward will be to advise travelers on what they can do to protect themselves and others.

Jon Reed is a reporter for KUER. Follow him on Twitter @reedathonjon

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