Where Destination Organization Can Find Reliable Information During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Gabriel Seder, Destinations International

Among the challenges that destination organizations are facing during the ongoing crisis is understanding where to find reliable, up-to-date information about coronavirus, its implications for the tourism industry, and its local impacts within the destination.

Destination organizations understand that decisions affecting public health must be guided by expert information, grounded in scientific and medical data, and sourced from public health and government authorities. However, a survey of more than 200 destination organizations that Destinations International conducted earlier in the month found that organizations struggle to access timely and relevant information they can trust.

In the survey, organizations expressed frustration with information about the virus that often changed day-by-day or even hour-by-hour, and with news reports that can seem to be in conflict with other sources. The survey found that destination organizations endeavor to themselves be trusted conduits of information for their stakeholders, but first, they must understand what information they should be sharing with stakeholders.

Destinations International Travel Industry Resources

During the early stages of the pandemic, Destinations International created a CORVID-19 Travel Industry Resources Hub to compile and distribute information and resources for destination organizations. The resource hub includes links to guidance from trusted public health agencies, as well as major industry trade groups and associations. The hub includes resources for meeting planners, including meetings and events cancellations or postponements, and notices about upcoming Destinations International events.  

We have also developed a new Crisis Communications Handbook for destination organizations. The handbook features templates to guide you through the process of creating a plan for how your organization will speak to audiences both internally and externally as the current crisis unfolds.

We have launched a weekly webinar series with expert speakers from across the industry and own research and analysis on the unfolding crisis and its impacts on travel and tourism. We are committed to providing expert analysis from trusted travel and tourism experts to learn more about how the industry is responding to the effects of the Coronavirus and how your destination organization can play a role in the response efforts. Register for upcoming webinars and find recordings of past presentations in our CORVID-10 Webinar Center.

Public Health Information and Medical Guidance  

As destination organizations weigh information to make decisions about how best to care for employees, clients, partners, and members of your community, consider the following trusted sources of information and guidelines for public health and safety.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the federal agency tasked with protecting public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury and disability. The CDC is a trusted source of information about the coronavirus and offers actionable recommendations for limiting its spread. The CDC’s coronavirus website includes the most up-to-date information available about the pandemic and recommendations to limit its spread and impact on public health.  

The CDC has released resources for workplaces, schools, and community locations, with information that will be valuable for destination organizations, such as Resources for Businesses and Employers and Resources for Community Events and Mass Gatherings.  The CDC has also developed a portal with travel resources with official federal guidelines, regulations, and recommendations around domestic and international travel. Among these are resources about Coronavirus and Travel Within the United States, Recommendations Regarding International Travel, Travelers Prohibited from Entry into the United States, and FAQs for Travelers.

In addition to CDC guidance, destination organizations in the U.S. should check regularly with their state’s department of public health for state-specific information, guidance, and resources. A complete list of state departments of public health is available here.

Destination organizations in Canada can turn to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for public health and travel guidance during the pandemic. PHAC works in partnership with other agencies to focus on preventing disease and injuries, promoting good physical and mental health, and providing information to support informed decision making and is responsible for responding to public health emergencies and infectious disease outbreaks.

The PHAC coronavirus website includes information about the outbreak in Canada and resources for the tourism and travel industry, including outbreak update and current information, travel advice, and information about prevention and risks. PHAC also has resources that destination organizations in Canada will find valuable, including resources for communities and resources for businesses and employees.

Destination Organizations not located in the U.S. or Canada can turn to their own national health ministries for information, or to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO is an agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. It is based in Geneva with 150 field offices worldwide.

The WHO has an exhaustive inventory of resources and information about the pandemic that is updated daily. Among this is advice for the pubic on keeping safe, guidance for schools, workplaces and institutions,  a model for risk assessments for mass gatherings, country-specific guidance for all UN member countries, and travel advice that is updated as the situation continues to develop. The WHO also maintains an online dashboard that tracks the number of confirmed cases and number of deaths from CORVID-19 and maps the countries or territories where cases have been confirmed. 

Travel and Tourism Industry Resources

Destinations International is continuing to maintain our COVID-19 Industry Resources Hub with information as it becomes available. Other industry associations and trade groups have also stepped up to compile and share actionable information for the industry.

U.S. Travel has created an Emergency Preparedness and Response portal dedicated to COVID-19. Here, destination organizations can find information related to the CARES Act, the economic stimulus package signed into law on March 27, including comprehensive information about relief measures for small businesses and eligibility requirements for federally-backed lending products.

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) has also launched a portal for Canadians and businesses in the tourism industry impacted by COVID-19. This includes resources for businesses and employees as well as resources for individuals impacted by shutdowns in the industry. Organizations in Canada can sign up for email updates from TIAC for the latest developments on the industry there and updates for what TIAC is doing to address the situation.

Both the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) and the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) have posted guidance for meeting and event planners and are tracking impacts of COVID-19 for the meetings industry. 

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is releasing data, research and information about the outbreak and its impact on the global travel industry. Tourism Economics is also publishing regularly with updated impact analysis of the epidemic including a report earlier in the month on the impact on US travel and another last week on the impact on global travel and tourism. ADARA launched a COVID-19 Resource Center which uses real-time travel data to track travel-related consumer behavior and identify key trends.

We Want to Hear from You

What information are you finding difficult to get? What gaps are you finding in available resources? How can Destinations International support your destination organization in these unprecedented times?

If you have ideas for data, research, key information, or other resources that we can provide for you and other members—or if you have important information you’d like shared with our members—contact Gabe Seder, Senior Director for Advocacy Policy and Program Development at [email protected].

About the Author

Gabe Seder
Senior Director of Advocacy Policy & Program Development
Destinations International Foundation
Gabe is a tourism marketing and destination development professional with more than 10 years of experience consulting for emerging and established destinations and tourism businesses around the world. He has supported city, regional, and national destination organizations to create and implement tourism strategies and master plans, develop and roll out national tourism brands, and implement international multi-channel marketing campaigns.

A native of coastal Maine, Gabriel lives in Washington DC. He has a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from the George Washington University.