How IITA and its global partners are working to ensure the inbound travel industry is safe, strong and welcoming

IT’S NO SECRET that inbound travel to the U.S. has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. With each crisis we learn lessons and experience changes to the travel industry and our businesses. We can expect the same from this extended pandemic.

Some of the challenges we’ve faced have been government-imposed travel restrictions and closed borders, new variants challenging the pace of vaccination rates, group size restrictions for indoor activities and national park visits, and adapting travel products and experiences to include health and hygiene protocols.

On that latter point, we recognized early on the importance of rebuilding traveler confidence by maintaining the highest standards for health safety requirements.

Travelers need to feel safe and protected as they travel in this new environment, which requires consistency across the industry for health and safety procedures. IITA worked with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) to establish “Global Tour Operator Protocols for the New Normal,” and several of our members adopted the WTTC’s Safe Travel protocols or developed their own equivalent measures to demonstrate their commitment to their customers’ health safety.

The industry’s proactive measures in collaboration with health experts and government officials should further instill confidence in our international guests. Let’s take it a few steps further and look at how we can evolve our companies to meet the needs of current and future health standards and consumer values while protecting our destinations for long-term travel and tourism potential.

In addition to the challenges, the pandemic creates space for some new opportunities and innovations.

First, IITA embraces the critical partnership among the three pillars of inbound travel – destination marketing organizations (DMOs), travel suppliers and inbound operators – recognizing the importance our international clients put in our ability to provide high-quality, unique and seamless travel experiences for their customers.

Second, we have the opportunity – individually and as an industry – to develop travel products utilizing the framework of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals that provide a global “blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.” What industry is better suited to address these comprehensive goals? We’re focused on rebuilding travel to the United States sustainably, for the long-term.

Finally, we have focused on technology advances and integrating connectivity solutions to make doing business globally easier and more efficient without diminishing the profitability of our international partners.

We partnered with the OpenTravel Alliance, which is the authority on travel data standards and open-source specifications, to collaborate on open standards that provide a level playing field for seamless connectivity throughout the travel distribution system.

We’ve faced the challenges of the pandemic. And now we must seize the opportunity to reshape global travel with innovations to do business in the new age.

Safe Travels,
Peter van Berkel
Chairman -International Inbound Travel Association