September 23, 2021
September 15, 2021
COVID-19 and travel at SEA Airport
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) hosted a virtual event in April 2021 on the international travel recovery outlook and what that means at the airport. Expedia, Edelman, Visit Seattle, Traveling with Denella Ri'chard, Washington Tourism Alliance and Greater Seattle Partners joined the conversation to share how Washington state can connect to the economic recovery, the travel trends driving consumer behavior, and how destinations can adapt to welcome travelers.
With more than 250 people tuned in, the robust program was sprinkled with Q&A from attendees to dig into the opportunities and challenges on the horizon for international travel. Here are the conversation highlights!
SEA is well positioned for the recovery and is less affected than many other U.S. airports. Half of our pre-pandemic international services are already currently operating, and we expect to see a steady return of flights as international restrictions are relaxed. The main barrier to international travel remains border restrictions.
Visit Seattle President and CEO Tom Norwalk shared great optimism that while we are at crossroads of recovery and balancing an ongoing pandemic, there is an opportunity to grow international travel to Seattle more than any other segment. International travels stay longer, spend more money and visit more destinations within a region, which is critical for the region’s overall economic recovery.
Norwalk spotlighted that the future for travel hinges on successful vaccine rollout. In early April the CDC issued new travel guidance for travelers who are fully vaccinated that you can safely do so within the United States without needing to self-quarantine or get a COVID-19 test. Moreover, Europe is considering welcoming vaccinated U.S. travelers this summer. The U.S. Travel Association is currently developing a blueprint with the Biden administration with the hopes to find a risk-based approach to open the U.S. to the world by July 2021. “The outlook and promise of what are to come is all the more reason to double down on vaccines ... ultimately our future for travel hinges on vaccine success,” said Norwalk.
Ian Jeffries, senior vice president and travel and tourism lead with Edelman, dropped some knowledge on the consumer behavior trends this year.
“It is the trust among travelers that is helping to fuel this recovery,” ended Jeffries. “Moving forward, it’s going to be even more important to keep in mind that your customers, the travelers, are counting on business to be transparent in sharing timely and accurate information to maintain this trust as they continue booking travel and hitting the road.”
*Findings from Destination Analysts Research and Skift’s Recovery Index
Seattle-based Expedia is tuned to how people are planning and booking travel. Nisreene Atassi, senior director and global head of PR and social for Brand Expedia, revealed predictions marking how we’re returning to travel.
“We know that travelers are looking for the health and hygiene practices for their travel providers,” shared Atassi. “We’re working really hard to make sure that is as transparent as possible, because we understand that helps to reassure a traveler. As people are looking to get the most out of their trips, it is no longer about finding the cheapest way to travel. It is about getting the most of out of your experience.”
Travel expert Denella Ri’Chard has visited several warm-weather destinations throughout the pandemic and shared her travel experiences in the last year.
Washington Tourism Alliance Executive Director David Blandford closed the program to focus us on future as we welcome travel and tourism recovery this year. The tourism is often one of the most impacted in a global crisis, whether economic or a pandemic. A mantra for the industry is never waste a good crisis.
“We learned to sustain our advocacy programs, we formed industry partnerships around new innovations, we kept our customers and clients dreaming and believing,” remarked Blandford. “We need to get global travelers back to Washington through SEA, staying at our hotels, visiting our attractions and dining in our restaurants.”
Blandford emphasized responsible travel and promotion, real-time travel advocacy, public health education and education around the new logistics of travel, and an ongoing commitment to consumer trust and travel confidence.
SEA is putting the finishing touches on our new International Arrivals Facility, the perfect way to welcome you back to international travel. Even though international passenger volumes will take some time to recover, having a modern and spacious facility is more important than ever in an era of social distancing. In addition to providing expanded passenger capacity, the IAF also adds additional international gates, and we expect to need those in the not-too-distant future. The IAF brings more elbow room for passengers, a more efficient and tech savvy arrival process and more flexibility for our airport.
As Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman shared during the event, “We came through this storm together and are beginning to feel a bit of wind at our backs. We have good reasons to be optimistic about the future … Thanks to the community standing together, we are ready to welcome the future, and that future will be bright.”
September 23, 2021
September 15, 2021
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