ASTA responded strongly and swiftly to a U.S. State Dept. advisory recommending that U.S. citizens – in particular older travelers with underlying health conditions – not travel by cruise ship because of what is deemed to be a higher risk of infection of coronavirus.
“Given the importance of the cruise industry to travel advisors, ASTA is gravely concerned about the impact of this advisory on our members’ businesses,” said ASTA President & CEO Zane Kerby. “As we shared with the White House before the advisories were issued, the vast majority of cruise trips go off without a hitch, and government actions should reflect that fact and be targeted and temporary. We hope this advisory lasts days, not weeks.”
He added: “There are 365 cruise ships sailing today with nearly 700,000 passengers aboard. Only two ships have a coronavirus problem. A targeted focus on cruising is a distraction from the real issue of community spread.
Kerby also warned about the repercussions of spreading panic among consumers. “Telling the traveling public to avoid cruising and painting the entire industry with a broad ‘high risk’ brush stroke is irresponsible, and adds to the ‘info-demic’ gripping the public,” he said. “Those who have underlying health conditions should consult their physician to evaluate a variety of activities including travel.”
Additionally, Zane raised the issue of financial relief for travel agency businesses.
“On behalf of ASTA and our 12,000 members across the country, 98 percent of whom are small businesses according to the Small Business Administration and two-thirds of whom are owned and operated by women, we urge the Administration to work with Congress on a legislative package of targeted relief for the travel industry, especially the small businesses at its core,” he said.
“Items such as federal grants, low- or no-interest SBA loans and regulatory relief for small businesses should be considered. Tomorrow, ASTA will testify at the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee to provide specific examples to Congress for how to help travel advisors continue to serve their clients and highlight suggested policy priorities to be considered.”
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