U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said Friday it was too early
to say whether coronavirus would end up being a three-week story or something
“The problem is, the numbers lag,” he said, making it
difficult to assess impact quickly. “My only concern at this point is that the
media doesn’t always differentiate between the questions ‘Is it safe to travel?’
and ‘Is it safe to travel to China?’” he said.
When the message is muddled, fear and misinformation can
spread quickly, he said, and gave an example.
“I was on a radio talk program this week, and a woman called
in from Ohio and said, ‘I’m going skiing to Vail on Friday. Is it safe?’ She
sounded like an intelligent person. So, I’m just worried about misconceptions.”
During past epidemics, U.S. Travel held webinars with the
heads of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC). Dow said they’re monitoring the situation, and if
needed, they will try to do so again. “We’re on the phone daily with the NIH,
CDC and White House” getting updates, he said.
Dow said that despite his concerns, he’s still forecasting a
good year for travel. They had projected a slowdown in 2020 after 10 straight
years of month-over-month growth. “We’re predicting 2-3% growth: international
arrivals flat to 0.5% down, leisure up 4-5%. Leisure is still carrying the