Travel Edition 2021: Traveling With Confidence
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape travel, AAA and its hotel, tour, and cruise partners have been taking steps to ensure travelers’ safety and security. As part of its effort, AAA has joined the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), whose mission is to ensure that global travel is seamless, secure, safe, inclusive, and sustainable.
“Many people can’t wait to travel, and they want to travel as soon as they feel it’s safe,” says Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA.
The WTTC has developed a vision for its Safe & Seamless Traveler Journey initiative, which would enable a smooth and secure experience. Optional systematic biometric technology (i.e., eye scans) at each stage of the journey would replace today’s manual identity verifications. Such contactless processes could also help prevent virus transmission among travelers. And when a vaccine is created, a digital health stamp could be used as a form of certification.
“We will continue to see innovations in the coming months and years that help travelers do more and worry less,” says Haas. “As travel protocols continue to improve, AAA Travel Advisors can help you sort through the range of travel options so you can make informed decisions.”
As hotels, tour operators, and cruise lines implement new safety and security practices, here are some of the changes you could encounter as you begin traveling again. Additional resources include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of State—Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Hotels have been working hard to make sure they can provide the safest experience possible by:
- Increasing hygiene protocols related to disinfecting common areas.
- Providing hand sanitizer at locations throughout hotels.
- Using advanced disinfecting processes.
According to Hass, many hotels are even saying, “Once you check in, we’re not going to enter the room unless you ask us to.” That becomes something within your control as a traveler.
The WTTC has devised a set of best practices to help guide hotels as they provide an increased focus on health, safety, and physical distancing. These best practices include improving food safety in restaurants, enhancing cleaning, applying physical distancing for meetings and events, and using technology for contactless payment where possible.
Air carriers are revamping their practices to improve passenger safety—from check-in to baggage claim—by:
- Holding center seats open.
- Implementing electrostatic spraying at the gate, on the plane, and at baggage claim.
- Using face masks from check-in through the flight.
- Placing hand sanitizer stations throughout airport public areas.
AAA’s tour operators have been working with experts around the world to provide a healthy and enjoyable travel experience for their guests. “Whether it’s offering more flexibility in changing your plans closer to your travel date or adding a special wellness director, our partners are putting their guests’ well-being and enjoyment first,” says Hass. Tour operators are:
- Disinfecting motor coaches often and making hand sanitizer available.
- Operating tours with smaller groups and keeping some seats on coaches empty to enable social distancing.
- Offering private sedan service to take guests to and from the airport.
- Customizing itineraries to allow you to travel only with your family, friends, or bubble—people you are comfortable traveling with.
Major cruise lines are working with the CDC to develop new practices for safety and health. Cruise operators are taking many steps even before the first passenger sets foot onboard, and measures may include:
- Scheduling arrival to the terminal by appointment.
- Aligning terminal hours of operation with ship arrival and debarkation times to reduce unnecessary terminal traffic.
- Limiting sailings to no more than seven days.
- Pre-screening all passengers and crew.
- Conducting once-daily temperature checks for guests and crew during the voyage.
- Using face masks from check-in through duration of cruise, except when in individual cabins.
- Implementing enhanced sanitation protocols.
- Adjusting meal service and entertainment venues to allow for social distancing.
- Providing transparency to guests, should another passenger test positive.
“Guests will notice some changes in their cruise experience,” says Haas. “They will likely undergo pre-embarkation screening with touchless temperature technology; have no-touch food and beverage service; and enjoy more space onboard the ship and on more structured shore excursions because of a reduced number of passengers onboard.”
At AAA, we realize that the decision to travel is a personal one, and our Travel Experts are ready to assist you and your family in making travel plans that fulfill your dreams and maximize your budget. Contact us for a personal conversation and to discuss the latest options in travel and travel insurance. And when you do decide to travel, your AAA Membership helps make it easy, with discounts and special benefits on cruises, tours, hotels, and Hertz rental cars. Stop by one of our stores, call, or schedule a virtual appointment at AAA.com/Travel.