The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations (ECTAA)—which together represent the interests of hundreds of thousands of travel agency and related business workers worldwide—are collectively calling upon global government leaders to align their policies in order to restart international travel as safely and quickly as possible. Border reopenings, they opine, should be made an immediate priority.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) reported that travel and tourism was one of the largest sectors globally in 2019, generating 10.4 percent of the world’s total GDP ($9.2 trillion). Globally, the industry was also the source of 10.6 percent of all employment (334 million) and was credited with creating 25 percent of all new jobs.
The coalition said that this crucial sector’s recovery from the devastation the pandemic has inflicted can only truly begin if global governments standardize their entry requirements, such as vaccine verification and testing protocols. It emphasized the urgency of the need for a universal set of border regulations and agreed with The Economist when it called the current system, “a jumble of rules [that] causes confusion, chokes tourism, and leaves businesses struggling to work out who can do what and go where.”
The agency associations jointly pointed out that, for well over a year now, global governments have adopted inconsistent and multiform travel restrictions in efforts to slow COVID-19’s spread. The variety and changeability of these rules have caused confusion and instilled uncertainty among travelers, with catastrophic effects on, “future bookings and innumerable other challenges for our associations’ travel agency members and partners.”
Besides adversely affecting small businesses and those employed in the travel industry, this failure to unify entry requirements also harms economies in the destinations that rely on tourism revenue and, by extent, greatly impacts the global economy.
ASTA, ABTA, ACTA, CHTA and ECTAA emphasized their concerns about the ongoing ruinous effects of COVID-19, especially given the new life that the Delta variant has breathed into the pandemic. “With continued uncertainty on the horizon, this sort of news makes those wanting to travel less likely to do so,” they wrote.
The coalition is therefore appealing to government leaders all around the world to “create an aligned and synchronized response” by 1) promptly developing a clear, universal set of testing and vaccine standards; 2) relaxing entry restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers; and 3) supporting the blighted travel agency sector with economic relief measures.
Travel agencies and advisors are an integral part of the travel industry, the band of industry associations emphasized, and said, that they had too long suffered “the bitter consequences of travel’s hard-stop brought on by the pandemic”. Now more than ever, they play a vital role in helping consumers navigate the vast complexities of travel planning.