With postponements and cancellations mounting—the National Association of Broadcasters today said it’s seeking options for its annual Vegas gathering, April 17-22, which pulled $47 million in revenue last year and the NCAA said March Madness will begin sans fans—the impact coronavirus could have on commerce is clear.
Into the fray comes the US Travel Association (USTA). Its 1,100 member-organizations include airlines, hotels, convention centers and other travel-related companies. Should people panic and stop traveling, its members will shrivel.
So, while espousing that “the safety of the traveling public, our guests and our employees is of the utmost importance,” USTA says it wants people to make “calm, rational, and fact-based decisions” about travel.
In a March 10 statement, some members of the group said, “Though the headlines may be worrisome, experts (PRNEWS' emphasis) continue to say the overall coronavirus risk in the U.S. remains low.”
Who are these experts? No sources or links to health sites with this information are included to bolster USTA’s argument. In a statement titled "Fact-Based Travel," it's important to let readers know where they can get medical facts to back up USTA's assertions. And doesn't a decision about travel need to factor in the trip's importance? Is the same risk involved with a pleasure trip as a business trip? Couldn't a flight, for example, risk putting one near someone with the virus?
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The statement continues: “The latest expert guidance indicates that for the overwhelming majority, it’s OK to live, work, play and travel in the U.S. By seeking and heeding the latest expert guidance—which includes vigorous use of good health practices, similar to the preventive steps recommended for the seasonal flu—America’s communities will stay strong and continue to thrive.”
Unfortunately, there’s so much information flying around, it’s hard to know if this advice is accurate. There's no single repository of medical advice. Some experts liken coronavirus to the flu, and others feel this is folly. On a surface level, scientists have studied flu for years. They know it relatively well. Not so with coronavirus.
A larger issue relates to a maxim of PR crisis communication: Stay in your lane. Communicate what you know. Is it wise for customers to get health advice from a travel association?
The rest of the statement seems on surer ground: “The decision to cancel travel and events has a trickle-down effect that threatens to harm the U.S. economy, from locally owned hotels, restaurants, travel advisors and tour operators to the service and frontline employees who make up the backbone of the travel industry and the American economy.”
This article is part of PRNEWS' daily COVID-19 coverage, click here to see the latest updates.