WTTC Safe Travels Stamp: A hoax?

The Economy or health – what is more important?
Tourism or Health, what is the best way forward?

Gloria Guevara, CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has been working tirelessly to open the travel and tourism industry.

WTTC thinks travel can be safe while the Coronavirus has become a dark reality. WTTC sees COVID-19 as the new normal. Therefore WTTC created a stamp of safe travels.

Juergen Steinmetz and Dr. Peter Tarlow founder of the grassroots initiative known as rebuilding.travel warned WTTC not to mislead the traveling public with a rubber stamp approval of “safe travels.”

Rebuilding travel and tourism are not just for today, but also for tomorrow“, urged Dr. Peter Tarlow who is also the president of SaferTourism.com

Juergen Steinmetz, publisher of eTurboNews predicted on February 24 that the largest travel and tourism trade show ITB will be canceled. Steinmetz said in his article that if  ITB was canceled it would also show that ITB, the City of Berlin, and Germany are putting safety over money.

eTurboNews received a lot of criticism over this prediction, including from Messe Berlin, the organizer of ITB. Because of the eTN article, David Ruetz, head of ITB was prompted to issue an official confirmation saying ITB will go on.

Among tourism leaders who questioned eTurboNews for its prediction, ITB will cancel because of Coronavirus was Gloria Guevara, CEO, and president of WTTC. On February 27,  2020, just one day before ITB Berlin decided to cancel the largest travel and tourism trade show in the world, Gloria Guevara told Juergen Steinmetz:

99.9% of the virus just dies with antibacterial gel. She urged not to be scared or panic. She added that most of the people in the UK that were sick had recovered and were released from the hospital.
She explained that based on her personal experience during H1N1 and what the WHO was recommending the solution is not to cancel trips.

Gloria was convinced that the virus was not surviving and the community transmissions in hot weather and humidity were almost none.

The World Health Organization had a similar message, and we all know it was not Gloria’s fault in saying what she strongly believed in. Gloria believed in her statement because of evidence provided by WHO, UNWTO and others.

Many travel and tourism organizations including UNWTO also dismissed eTurboNews prediction that ITB will be canceled.

On February 28 ITB finally decided to cancel this event, and many exhibitors lost an enormous amount of money in having to pay for stands, hotels, and airline tickets that were never used. The Nepal Tourism Board was among those that had to write off a good portion of their yearly marketing budget because of the cancellation.

Even eTurboNews should have listened to its publisher’s prediction and lost money for hotels, airline tickets, and after organizing the Nepal night and a discussion on Coronavirus in cooperation with PATA.

Now it’s 4 months later and humanity has witnessed a catastrophic spread of this deadly monster virus infecting 10,243,858 people and killing 504,410 human beings in more than 160 countries as of today.

It’s important to get everything 100% correct before going to the next steps and before relaunching travel and tourism. WTTC has earned the title of a global leader. This leadership comes with special responsibilities.

Florida started opening beaches on June 4.

On June 4  a total of 617 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Florida. On June 27 the number spiked to 9,585.

Before these numbers came out today, Gloria told eTurboNews on Friday: “Based on the evidence we should be able to travel, accept a “new normal” and protect lives at the same time until a vaccine is available.” 

The evidence is that wearing masks, social distancing, and testing, as well as contact tracing is working in destinations that have opened. We should learn from the destinations that have opened that are in a good recovery path.

When it comes to learning from US destinations including Florida, the WTTC CEO is dead wrong.

Similar shocking numbers are coming in from around the world, and specifically from the United States, where Texas, Arizona, and California are also in a state of disbelieve.

The US health secretary, Alex Azar has warned today that “the window is closing” on the country’s chance to take action to effectively curb the coronavirus.

The European Union already decided to keep Americans out, closing their borders to US Citizens when they are planning to reopen their country on July 1.

Hawaii seems to be the only US State so far to keep its residents safe.

Hawaii House Representative Rida Cabanilla Arakawa told eTurboNews on Friday she was concerned about reopening tourism in the Aloha State and urged to put health over-tourism. She said:

“We can survive an economic downturn, but we cannot survive death.”  

Trends seem to turn from saving lives to saving economies, and Hawaii so far was able to remain a model on how a State can put health over economic gain.

This took heroes like Hawaii Governor Ige, Lt. Governor Green, and Honolulu Major Caldwell to keep the Aloha State closed. Since the Trump Government never allowed a closure, the State required everyone arriving to be confined into a hotel room for a two week quarantine period.

It took discipline by every single citizen, so Hawaii was able to slowly open to locals. Unfortunately 2-3 weeks in the opening process infection numbers are also going up, but are not yet alarming still counting for the lowest numbers in the United States. The State will open to every tourist with a non-COVID infection certificate on August 1.

Voices in Hawaii already urge authorities to re-evaluate the opening day of August 1, despite the enormous additional damage it will do to the tourism-dependent economy in Hawaii.

Why a Safe Travels Stamp?

Gloria Guevara explained when asked by eTurboNews: “To recover from this unprecedented situation, while we continue protecting lives and try to restore tourism, the economy and the millions of livelihoods impacted require unprecedented support and compromise from everyone. We all play a part in this!  Implementing global protocols, making decisions based on science, and follow advice from medical experts are part of the solution.

Economy vs. health?

WTTC introduced protocols and introduced the Safe Travels Stamp for 

  • Car Rental
  • Short Term Rental
  • Attractions
  • Meetings & Events
  • Tour Operators
  • Airports Aviation
  • Outdoor
  • Hospitality 

The specially designed stamp will allow travelers to recognize governments and companies around the world which have adopted health and hygiene global standardized protocols – so consumers can experience ‘Safe Travels’.

Eligible companies such as hotels, restaurants, airlines, cruise lines, tour operators, attractions, short term rentals, car rentals, outdoor shopping, transportation, and airports, will be able to use the stamp once the health and hygiene protocols, outlined by WTTC, have been implemented.   

The global protocols to recover the Travel & Tourism sector have been embraced by over 1,200 companies, including some of the world’s major tourism groups, and over 80 destinations, ensuring the safety and hygiene of travelers are the top priority. These numbers are growing substantially daily.

The process is easy. 
1) Download the instructions on how to become a safe destination, hotel, car rental company, etc
2) Agree to the terms and condition confirming you implemented these carefully worded guidelines
3) Use the Safe Travel Stamp and giving travelers a feeling of traveling to a Coronavirus safe destination, stay in a safe hotel, and just enjoy your time traveling. 

The catch:

There is no checking by an independent party that such guidelines are actually implemented. 

Terms and conditions clearly say that the use of the Protocols is entirely voluntary. Here is the most important part of the terms and condition: WTTC assumes no liability for your use of the Protocols;

Without such a guarantee the Stamp seeks to provide consistency and reassurance for consumers to speed the Travel & Tourism recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Subject to these Terms, Organisations and Destinations may choose to display the Stamp in order to let consumers know that their protocols are in alignment with the Protocols and that they have complied with the Protocols relevant to their industry.


WTTC’s Right to Request Information

WTTC may at any time request information from you to evidence your compliance with the Protocols, and WTTC may terminate your entitlement to display the Stamp where:

I. You fail to provide sufficient information capable of evidencing compliance with the Protocols, in WTTC’s sole determination; and

II. Any information provided to WTTC is found to be false or misleading.  

To the fullest extent permitted by law, WTTC shall not be liable for any costs, expenses, loss or damages (whether direct, indirect or consequential, and whether economic or otherwise) associated with a  passenger, traveler, guest, customer, employee or other person contracting COVID-19 or any other illness and where you have, in good faith, adhered to the relevant Protocols applicable to your industry.

Terms and condition made sure that anyone displaying them has to agree to indemnify, defend and hold WTTC, its affiliates, agents, suppliers and licensors harmless from all claims, causes of action, allegations, costs, expenses, fees (including reasonable attorneys’ fees), judgments, liabilities, losses, and damages, including those arising. Jurisdiction is in England or Wales, UK.

Rebuilding.travel congratulated WTTC for this initiative but also had been urging the UK based organization to make this safe travel stamp a sign of resilience. Rebuilding.travel remains concerned that the safe travels stamp could give a false sense of safety for the traveler.

The global tourism resilience & crisis management center under the leadership by the Hon. Minister Ed Bartlett confirmed showing resilience is a good way forward.

Dr. Peter Tarlow added: “The word “safe travels” could open up a flood of lawsuits. There is no way any destination or business could guarantee the safety of all visitors not only when it comes to the Coronavirus.

Juergen Steinmetz concluded: “Travelers are not attorneys. As much as I applaud the excellent work and guidelines established for the Safe Travels Stamp, assuring travelers they are safe, is wrong, misleading and negligent. Such a message may actually kill.

Rebuilding.travel is ready to work with WTTC in endorsing their guidelines laid out in their safe travels brochures, without giving a guarantee of safety.
Rebuilding.travel has members in 116 countries.

Rebuilding.travel has a global emergency discussion on this subject. This public Zoom conference is planned for Wednesday 3pm EST.
More information and how to register, click here.