The U.S. Travel Association said that travel can continue to move forward as long as people comply with wearing masks and other measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
When asked during a press call whether traveling right now is a good idea given the state of spread in this country, U.S. Travel executive vice president of public affairs and policy Tori Barnes said that like other parts of the economy, travel can resume if folks "take very seriously health and safety measures" such as wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer and physical distancing. U.S. Travel launched a campaign around masks and other safety measures earlier this month.
Trish Perl, a fellow with the Infectious Diseases Society of America and chief of the division of infectious diseases and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, also said that compliance was paramount and proving to be a main obstacle to this country's reopening.
"The biggest challenge is to get a very independent country with very independent practices to try and really say, 'look, this is not negotiable,'" Perl said. "If we want to move forward and open up these different industries, it's not negotiable whether you wear a mask or use hand sanitizer. It's not negotiable to go to work when you're sick. This is the new normal that's going to happen."
If people comply, Perl said, travel can safely happen now.
"I actually feel much more comfortable with some travel moving forward at this point than I did two to three months ago, just because I think we have a lot more info on how effective mask-wearing is and some of these other behaviors," she said.
Shutting down travel again, Barnes said, would put the country "in a dangerous position," citing the eight million jobs already lost in the industry, which she said is not expected to fully recover until 2024.
"That will hurt the rest of the U.S. economy," she said, adding that 1 in 10 jobs in 2019 were in the travel industry. "The only way to bring those jobs back in a sustained way is to get people moving again. We think as we work to reopen you can do so in a healthy and safe way and a responsible way."
Barnes said that both businesses and the traveling public need to do their part to get people to wear masks again.
"We think travel businesses should encourage the wearing of masks," she said. "Many are. All we can do is focus on the best way to bring jobs back and get people moving again."
Perl added that travel will be different going forward.
"We've learned lot in the past couple months and we can move forward with some travel but not travel that we used to know," she said. "It will be very different. We can't tolerate huge crowds and places without good physical distancing."
She likened the outcome to other public health interventions such as making children use car seats, people wearing seatbelts and eliminating smoking in public places.
"I'm very hopeful," she said. "What we're talking about will not just prevent Covid but influenza, tuberculosis, other communicable diseases... This is our moment. This is our opportunity to change behavior and practice."