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Travel Board Suggests Federal Model Use, Private Collaboration For Recovery

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The U.S. federal government should consider the development and deployment of a model for reopening travel “consistent with” declines in Covid-19 infection and death rates, the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board recommended to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in a Thursday letter. 

The board, chaired by CWT CEO Kurt Ekert, is part of the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration and advises the secretary on travel-related matters. The letter Thursday includes 10 recommendations for federal action “to support the recovery and growth of travel and tourism and restore international travel.”

Most directly relate to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on travel to and within the United States. Among the recommendations, some of which would require legislation, include reducing the number of physical touchpoints “throughout the travel continuum” and expanding the availability of federal loans to travel suppliers. 

The board also suggested the government “may also want to carefully consider the impacts of additional restrictive travel measures, such as domestic travel bans and testing and vaccination requirements.”

As an alternative, the board suggested the use of a model to guide reopening. “The approach used to manage the pandemic has not optimally applied performance-based standards, lacks predictive metrics and is not responsive in a timely fashion to all relevant data, leading policymakers to rely upon unproductive (or unnecessary) measures such as lockdowns and quarantines,” according to the board. Such a model “could include improved data collection, expanded use of new or emerging technology, and results-oriented standards to guide policymaking.”

The United Kingdom on Feb. 22 announced international travel would restart no earlier than May 17, after commissioning a review due April 12 of the measures necessary to do so. U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow this week suggested the U.S. government adopt a similar approach. 

The board also suggested the Commerce Department work with the private sector, particularly airlines, to help collect health data related to inbound passengers, develop policy and deploy emerging technology. 

“Engaging with the private sector on deploying technology such as digital travel passes, which could provide widely accepted test and vaccine certifications, may help drive forward progress on these issues quickly and substantially,” the board wrote. “Although there are some challenges around standardization and interoperability, the private sector is uniquely positioned to innovate and help solve for these types of issues.”

The board also recommended the creation of an agency within the Commerce Department to help streamline cross-department communication of travel alerts and advisories.

The board formed subcommittees to develop the recommendations, according to the letter, and each “engaged with government agencies, trade associations and other private sector actors to inform their work.”

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