November 13, 2020
Alexandria, VA, November 13, 2020 – The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) issues the following statement in response to a recent USA Today article on the ethics of recommending and selling travel during the COVID-19 pandemic:
“Since well before the pandemic, ASTA has counseled its members to use objective third-party sources of information to make their clients fully aware of the risks related to traveling but that in every case the decision to travel, or not to travel, is the client’s alone. To be sure, there is more risk associated with traveling now than before COVID-19, but we couldn’t disagree more with the author’s broad-brush conclusion that selling travel of any kind today is unethical.
“Such an unqualified proclamation ignores not only the fact that each traveler has her own level of risk tolerance, but also fails to acknowledge the critical role travel advisors play serving their clients when travel is, under anyone’s definition, considered ‘essential.’ Moreover, the article completely discounts the unprecedented steps travel suppliers have already taken to mitigate risk, such that, in the words of the World Health Organization (WHO), ‘Your chance of being exposed [to COVID] during the travel process is actually relatively low because of all the measures that have been taken.’
“Beyond hunkering down alone in your house, no activity is risk-free during this pandemic. The virus is highly infectious, invisible, and spreads involuntarily; no one denies that. But people have responsibly resumed all manner of activities by observing recommended safety protocols, including wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Far better to identify the real culprit for the virus’ spread – the failure to take the appropriate precautions – than to accuse people making an honest living selling travel of acting unethically while dusting off the old ‘they’re only in it for the commissions’ trope.
“While we all wait with great anticipation for a vaccine, we cannot realistically expect that one or more will be widely available until well into next year. Until then, people can and will travel while following the latest public health guidance, testing, health and safety protocols. Risk management does not mean risk elimination and each individual traveler, fully informed by their expert travel advisor, should be able to determine their own tolerance for travel. In our view, following this course is more ethical than completely shuttering an industry that supports 1 in 10 jobs in this country.”
Rebranded in 2018 as the American Society of Travel Advisors, ASTA is the leading global advocate for travel advisors, the travel industry and the traveling public. Its members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel. Together with hundreds of internationally-based members, ASTA’s history of industry advocacy traces back to its founding in 1931 when it launched with the mission to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. For more information about the Society, visit ASTA.org. Consumers can connect with an ASTA travel advisor at TravelSense.org.