U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes participated in the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s weekly press briefing.

I was pleased to take part in the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s weekly press briefing on Tuesday. Joining me as a co-panelist was Dr. Trish Perl, MD, an infectious diseases specialist who worked with U.S. Travel on our “Travel in the New Normal” health and safety guidance.

It’s an interesting time to be addressing questions about travel. Recent pandemic-related news has obviously not been good, with several large states experiencing major spikes in infections and issuing orders to shutter their economies again.

That’s why, even as the travel industry continues to plan and prepare for the moment when travel can resume and travel jobs can be restored, we are emphatic about a very clear reality: unless and until good health practices are universally embraced by the public—beginning with everyone wearing masks—the reopening of the travel economy simply cannot happen.

I also discussed the fact that Americans want to travel. They miss the experiences and connections that travel creates. But travelers also want to see rigorous and conspicuous health measures in place, which is yet another reason why the wearing of masks needs to be widely embraced: restoring confidence in the ability to travel is part and parcel of an economic recovery.

While it is not possible to eliminate 100% of the risk until there is a vaccine, we believe a flexible, layered, risk-based approach to health and safety measures can be enormously beneficial. This was the impetus behind U.S. Travel’s health and safety guidance, which aims to establish consistent practices across the industry, increase confidence in the ability to travel, and help businesses communicate new policies to travelers.

Dr. Perl believes, with the right practices in place, travel can resume safely.

"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.

I also emphasized that a healthy travel experience is a shared responsibility. Travelers who wear a mask in their home communities should not relax their own healthy practices just because they are traveling to a community that may have looser restrictions and guidance.

Finally, I touched on the importance of increased testing, which is important both from a public health standpoint and in restoring Americans’ ability to travel with confidence. U.S. Travel supports a new bipartisan bill called the Timely and Effective Systematic Testing (TEST) Act (S. 4163), which would modernize COVID-19 detection measures, improve testing and strengthen our country’s preparedness efforts to handle another crisis or a resurgence in cases.

We want to rebound quickly and restore our lost jobs, and we know a recovery is contingent on businesses and travelers all doing their part to adhere to the highest health and safety guidance.

Thank you again to IDSA for organizing the briefing. Please click here to see U.S. Travel’s health and safety guidance, and click here to see our Travel Confidently (A shared responsibility.) toolkit.

The full press briefing can be viewed here