Open Letter to the policymakers and travel and tourism fraternity, 2.0

A month back I had written an open letter. This is the second communique, regarding the steps that must be swiftly taken, to gradually let the wheels of economic life slowly turn again.

As the latest studies in CaliforniaNew York and Germany show, the virus is not as deadly as it appeared, and we have to learn to live with it as we do live with many other diseases that are as infectious and as deadly. These studies and the experience in Sweden makes it increasingly clear that lockdowns are no longer required. Countries including India have already paid a huge price due to the lockdown and it is high time to lift the restrictions gradually but swiftly, while adopting new processes to reduce the transmission, through better hygiene while we are out of our homes – for work and leisure. Otherwise, we may have to start counting more deaths for many other reasons like hunger, suicides, lack of emergency response to other diseases, general uprisings, rage and police excesses, not to mention the devastating consequences in the longer-term.

Private transport vehicles must be allowed to run without restrictions. Taxi services must also be allowed to open up fast, with some kind of mandatory sanitation routine that can be easily followed by cab operators. Likewise, large chartered passenger transport vehicles can also be allowed to operate, as long as these are being run by informed citizens who have agreed to take the risks, however little, and follow new procedures for managing the risk. Adherence to all these procedures must be self-certified and not policed as a criminal issue.

Hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and events should be open for business with new sanitation practices. An additional restriction could be a cap on how many persons can be allowed in a place, per square meter, or half the capacity, which can be gradually increased. Public transport and aviation must also open up, to start turning the wheels of general as well as the tourism economy.

A 10 point basic framework is proposed below, as an SOP for the tourism sector. We invite your collaboration and comments on all points and more, in the document here or on Facebook here.

This journal calls upon members of the travel tourism fraternity globally to collaborate in developing it further, and the authorities to lift the lockdowns for the travel and tourism sector as well, which contributes to some 10% of global incomes and employment.

Framework of new processes that can be adopted by airports, passenger terminals, aircrafts, other transport vehicles, hotels, attractions, events and any other tourist place where entry is controlled:

  1. Temperature screening at the time of entry. If the temperature is found above 99.6° F /37.5°C, politely decline entry or make the person wait comfortably and promptly make available an in-house or on-call physician to check if the guest is suspected for coronavirus or can be allowed in.
  1. If allowed in, the passenger must possess a sanitary kit just before entering the terminals which is supposed to be used throughout and discarded at the time of exiting the destination terminal, free of charge or at a reasonable cost. The kit must include a cloth face cover or mask, a mini sanitizer bottle.
  1. The passengers are given instructions to not touch the face without sanitising or washing the hands, with sanitizers or soap respectively. This is done by way of a printed notice, signs and broadcast on audio-visual mediums, at least with the same rigour as mandatory flight safety announcements.
  1. Additional sanitiser dispensers to be kept in every counter possible, or special dispensing counters to be provided.
  1. Availability of additional sanitation products like sanitizers, masks, hand gloves and other PPE, e.g. protective glasses and face shields, at reasonable prices.
  1. Glass or acrylic panels that are high enough to protect in every counter staff required to deal with customers, e.g. checking and information counters.
  1. N95 masks and protective transparent face shields to be worn by every staff all the time while in the terminal.
  1. Cleaning and sanitisation after every use of surface that comes in contact with customers and provision of disposable paper ribbons announcing that the surface has been sanitised and safe for use – e.g. toilet seats, touchscreens, in-room iron and dryer handles and other touchpoints in a hotel room. Cover every surface possible with washable covers that are changed as a part of housekeeping routine. Amenities not always required can be removed from the room and delivered on request.
  1. Wherever 8 is not practical and repeated touching without sanitisation cannot be avoided, there should be a liberal provision of paper tissues / single-use paper covers and sanitisers, to reduce skin contact, e.g. doorknobs and handles, lifts, taps, cart handles, etc.
  1. Wherever possible, reduce the need for things repeatedly touched by different persons and replace with one-time use or disposable things e.g. safety instructions and menu-cards, replacing with simpler paper versions for one-time use, smaller serving spoons for every person taking a buffet, do not recycle plastic card keys or use cheaper keychains for one-time use with conventional metal keys that must be properly sanitised (keychain can announce that), to help build customer confidence.

We invite your collaboration and comments on all points and more, in the document here or on Facebook here.

Sanjiv Agarwal
Publisher and Editor, Travel News Digest,
Founder, Fairfest Media – Organisers of TTFOTM and BLTM