Coronavirus: A three-week story or something longer?

Coronavirus: A three-week story or something longer?

By Arnie Weissmann | Jan 31, 2020

U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said Friday it was too early to say whether coronavirus would end up being a three-week story or something longer.

“The problem is, the numbers lag,” he said, making it difficult to assess impact quickly. “My only concern at this point is that the media doesn’t always differentiate between the questions ‘Is it safe to travel?’ and ‘Is it safe to travel to China?’” he said.

When the message is muddled, fear and misinformation can spread quickly, he said, and gave an example.

“I was on a radio talk program this week, and a woman called in from Ohio and said, ‘I’m going skiing to Vail on Friday. Is it safe?’ She sounded like an intelligent person. So, I’m just worried about misconceptions.”

During past epidemics, U.S. Travel held webinars with the heads of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dow said they’re monitoring the situation, and if needed, they will try to do so again. “We’re on the phone daily with the NIH, CDC and White House” getting updates, he said.

Dow said that despite his concerns, he’s still forecasting a good year for travel. They had projected a slowdown in 2020 after 10 straight years of month-over-month growth. “We’re predicting 2-3% growth: international arrivals flat to 0.5% down, leisure up 4-5%. Leisure is still carrying the industry.”