U.S. Travel Association, Business Travel Coalition Respond to Zika Concerns

The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) will serve as "a bridge between the travel community, administration, and public health officials" in managing the industry's response to the Zika virus, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the USTA, said in an email today. Additionally, the Business Travel Coalition has launched its own resource center to provide updated Zika information to the industry.

"We are monitoring this situation every day, with a focus on developments announced by the administration and public health agencies, as well as reports in the media," wrote Dow, urging planners and others in the industry to visit ustravel.org/zika to learn more and help in the industry's response.

Dow outlined three main areas where the USTA has taken active steps:

• The USTA is providing quotes from health experts and linking to official sources, all of which will be updated as new information arrives
• The USTA is connecting with the White House and federal officials to stay abreast of the national response to the threat, and keeping the officials apprised of the travel industry's positions on these developments
• While reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hold that widespread transmission is currently unlikely, the USTA is preparing for a greater crisis should things escalate

"Public health and security are of paramount concern," Dow concluded. "As the situation evolves, we will continue to rely on medical experts and federal officials to provide our industry -- and travelers -- with the guidance and confidence needed to travel safely."

The USTA's announcement comes after the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) announced on Monday its own resource center for Zika virus information. That resource center, available at zika.travel, includes updated news, analyses, and relevant links concerning the virus as it affects those dealing with business travel.

The BTC pointed out that an estimated 80 percent of people infected with Zika display no symptoms, so most would not know whether they were infected. This has led female business travelers of childbearing age may decide to forego or otherwise postpone travel to the areas affected by the outbreak until more information is made clear. The organization emphasized that the top priority is to proceed with caution and to stay as informed as possible, which the Zika.travel site encourages.

"To avoid panic, and unnecessarily canceled leisure or business travel trips, or worse outcomes, highly effective and timely communications from governments and health organizations will be critically important on a number of subjects," stated BTC founder Kevin Mitchell.

"Miscommunications, misunderstandings and rumors during the 2014 Ebola epidemic resulted in otherwise avoidable problems," Mitchell said. "Zika.travel will provide the travel industry with timely and accurate information so that informed policy decisions can be made."