Travel Industry Mobilizes to Help During the Pandemic

Talk of the current COVID-19 pandemic has dominated global conversation. While the information changes almost hourly, a new narrative of progress is forming. From local communities coming together to “flatten the curve,” to corporate tech giants donating medical masks and big-name manufacturers pledging to produce much-needed ventilators, these stories of unified response give reason for encouragement.

For travel—one of the most impacted industries—the resilience and commitment to the spirit of hospitality present in everyday life before the pandemic is even more apparent now. Hotels, airlines, and travel professionals have all begun the process of rebuilding the industry, starting by helping those most in need.

Housing Help

Hotels were built to serve, and it’s no surprise that—hit hard by declining occupancy—they have forged win-win solutions with local governments and hospitals to provide space for medical professionals and patients. In Chicago, the Department of Public Health will rent thousands of rooms to help monitor mild cases and track suspected instances of potential exposure. Across the Atlantic, the UK has also taken steps to make use of hotel space, working with Best Western Great Britain to provide additional beds for nearby hospitals. In Canada, Quebec has pursued a similar approach.

While the logistics of these partnerships vary and are not viable for all companies and communities, hoteliers and event venues continue to rise to the occasion in a myriad of ways. Some of the world’s biggest resorts have committed dollars and donated more than 300,000 pounds of food to emergency food distribution sites. Other hotels have promoted a spirit of solidarity, like Niagara Falls, which has lit up previously dark hotel rooms with Niagara Hearts of Hope. Convention centers from Oregon to San Diego to Kentucky have opened their doors, providing shelter for unhoused and vulnerable populations.

Transporting Needed Supplies

With the pandemic pushing many countries to enact increased travel restrictions, commercial airlines have pivoted to utilize empty planes and maximize suspended routes. American Airlines announced its first cargo-only flight in 36 years, which was used in part to transport medical supplies to depleted hospitals. Other airlines around the world have mobilized to do the same, from United to Air Canada to Turkish Airlines. Select charter services continue to offer flights for essential travel needs booked through a Travel Management Company (TMC), and most airlines are offering flexible cancellation policies and waivers for future travel.

Getting Travelers Home

For TMCs, the unprecedented situation created by COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to help travelers navigate the complex challenges of cancellations and evacuations, prioritizing both speed and care. At Direct Travel, travel advisors and account managers have been working diligently to help clients get refunds and get their travelers back safely. In one situation, students from a study abroad program were left stranded. Direct Travel embraced its “whatever it takes to get you there” mission statement and chartered an Airbus 330 to retrieve the students from overseas and bring them safely home.

As temporary travel suspensions continue to roll out in increasingly complex layers, more and more companies have found their travelers stranded and teams separated. Work with a TMC to help your travelers through these situations, planning alternative modes of transportation and ensuring minimal cancellation fees.

Together, we’re all working to keep the travel industry strong amidst the uncertainty and changing landscape. If you have questions about the impact this situation has on your travel program or how the industry is shifting, please reach out to Direct Travel − we are here to support you.