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Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association (at center), led a September 15 press conference in Washington, D.C. that made the case to resume business travel and meetings.

Industry Leaders Make Unified Pitch for Meetings and Events to Resume

While domestic vaccine mandates are not supported by the umbrella group U.S. Travel, its leader and those from other associations stand behind the idea that vaccines are “the fastest path to normalcy” along with a “layered approach” to safety.

At a September 15 media presentation at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the heads of several organizations connected to the meetings and business-travel industry took turns presenting facts and statistics showing travel in general and business events in particular to be considerably safer than everyday activities that most Americans are engaging in right now.

The takeaway, these leaders hope, is that the federal government, local governments, and business around the country will allow people to attend meetings again, given the many precautions taken by airlines and event organizers in addition to the rising number of vaccinated Americans.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, opened the press conference by stating that “enthusiasm for safely resuming business travel should not be mistaken for overlooking the seriousness of the virus. But lockdowns and other restrictions are no longer protecting us from the disease—vaccines are. We are 100 percent behind encouraging those who are eligible to get a vaccine, as it is the fastest path to normalcy for all of us.”

From there, John Cordier, CEO of Epistemix, a predictive analytics firm specializing in disease outbreaks, noted that “when you bring a layered approach to events—asking for proof of vaccination or proof of a negative Covid test, and requiring masks if Covid cases are increasing in a host city—you're able to reduce risk of attendees getting infected by at least four times.” With the reduced risk from layered precautions, “we've already seen more than 300 large events happen safely in the United States this year.”

USTAmtgsEvent0921b.png“The other thing to note,” Cordier added, “is that Covid is something that's going to need to be managed over time, the same way that flu and other epidemics have been.” His point: The business-events sector will simply have to get back to operating normally before Covid can possibly be eradicated.

After the executive presentations, a reporter from National Public Radio pressed Dow on why USTA will not explicitly support a nationwide vaccine mandate for travel, such as the one put forth last week by President Joseph Biden for companies with more than 100 employees.

Dow’s response: “First, that would be extraordinarily difficult to put in place. Consider that we have the Real ID program for travelers in the United States that we have been trying to get done for 11 years now. Second, we’ve got upwards of 35 percent of Americans who might be unable [or unwilling] to get vaccinated for one reason or another—but many are willing to take a Covid test to show that when they walk in the door [of a business event] that they are Covid free.”

On the other hand, “to reopen international travel, we are comfortable with people who come in showing proof of being vaccinated, if that is how we could restart such travel,” Dow noted. “But over the long term, mandates have never really proven that they work; the United Kingdom and a few other countries are actually going back on their mandates.”

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