The following is a transcript of an interview with Tripadvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer aired on Sunday May 30, 2021 on “Face the Nation”.
JOHN DICKERSON: As more and more Americans get vaccinated, they hit the roads, take trains and take off and planes to escape. Find out more about how the industry is preparing for a wave of travel. Now let’s move on to Tripadvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer, who is joining us from Newton, Massachusetts. Hello.
STEPHEN KAUFER, CEO of TRIPADVISOR: Hello everyone.
JOHN DICKERSON: So many people remember where they were when this pandemic started because they had to cancel their travel plans now with the vaccinations in place. What does the image look like?
KAUFER: Travel is back. If you look at the United States, it’s going to be a very busy season. We see that half of Americans want to take a summer vacation in their country and another quarter want to take an international trip. And so if you think back to a year ago, it was – it was concerns, it was cancellations and those who were taking trips were going out. Now we have a lot more activities all over the country. And it’s not just on the outside. Cities are making a comeback.
JOHN DICKERSON: And when you look at what people are looking for, did you mention that they are going back out into the cities, which have a heavy workload. Are you noticing any changes in behavior from what we expected in a pre-pandemic time?
KAUFER: Yeah, actually we see people interested in taking a little longer vacation, spending more, 40% of people say they’re going to spend more on that vacation. What will they do? They’re going to take longer vacations. They’re going to be doing a few other things while on vacation. They still aren’t going international as much as they could in 2019. They just don’t know how much is open yet, especially in Europe. But we expect that to increase over the summer. And, you know, at the end of the day, they’re going out and everybody’s going somewhere this summer.
JOHN DICKERSON: Can the system handle it? Airlines, hotels, all the institutions that were arrested. Can they handle this new glut of people who want to go out?
KAUFER: I think if travelers approach it with a little patience, because I think airports will still have a little – a little queues. I think the flights will be quite full. I know the airlines are increasing their capacity as much as they can, especially at the national level. So, yeah, I think everyone is going to be able to have a great summer vacation no matter where they go.
JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned the word patience. There have been a number of incidents where people show no patience, hitting flight attendants. Two airlines have decided not to serve alcohol on flights. What do you think ?
KAUFER: I think there’s a huge pent-up demand. Of course, we encourage everyone to remember why you are going on vacation, to have a good time, to be relaxed, to visit family and friends and the minor inconveniences to get there, it’s just part of the trip. But remember why you are going on vacation.
JOHN DICKERSON: Did you see – you mentioned the minor inconveniences, people traveling before vaccines were available. Some places had restrictions in terms of wearing masks, assembling. How many could be in your group. Do you see people making choices based on these kinds of things, which, even though they’re no longer in place, were sort of cultural signals? Do you see people making choices based on what kind of place they can go in the country and feel safe from the cultural restrictions that were part of the pandemic?
KAUFER: I’m not so sure about the cultural restrictions on the pandemic that has brought many of us to more outdoor activities and we see that continue this summer. I believe I read that national parks still say they are – they are – so many of them are reserved for camping all summer long. And so as people go out and explore, they seem like they are having a good time – I mean, on Tripadvisor we see hotel searches increase. We see all the different experiences you can book on Tripadvisor. These are going really strong, once again, demonstrating that this comeback is to travel.
JOHN DICKERSON: So let’s talk about a few specific types of travel. Let’s start with the cruise ships. These obviously played an important role in the pandemic. What is the status of the cruise ship industry?
KAUFER: Well, as you might know, you know, an Alaskan cruise, there’s cruise ships that’s going to come in line, do cruises. The cruise industry, if you’ve been on a cruise, there’s a good chance you enjoy taking a cruise. Very, very loyal people are coming back. They report fairly strong advance bookings. So whether it’s a cruise, a flight, or a hotel, if you’re looking to go somewhere this summer, you better start planning.
JOHN DICKERSON: What about vaccine passports for some of these types of trips? What should people think about it? And how much do companies weigh from a business point of view?
KAUFER: You know, a lot of countries, very naturally – now we’re talking about international travel, very naturally, want to make sure their populations are protected and many, I think, will take some form of that – a passport vaccine so that travelers from other countries do not have to self-quarantine. It would ruin the whole vacation. So get vaccinated. If you are in this country you want to go abroad, this will basically be your passport to land and continue this remarkable journey. We hope that many countries will adopt the same type of vaccination passport so that it becomes relatively easy whether you go to France, Germany, Italy or UK, can show the same type of passport and enter easily.
JOHN DICKERSON: I want to ask you a question about overseas travel in a moment, but I’m wondering if any companies, even in the United States, are making business decisions based on vaccinees? In other words, do they look at the types of people who have been vaccinated and do they market or pass judgment on the types of vacations vaccinated people would take versus those who are not?
KAUFER: I’m not sure, but I’ve spoken with a number of small businesses who are hoping that more and more people around the world will be vaccinated and therefore travel to the United States because the United States loves it. tourist dollars everywhere. the world. And to make sure our borders are open, vaccine passports are a great way to enter, not self-quarantine.
JOHN DICKERSON: In the last 30 seconds, the State Department has placed level four restrictions on so many foreign countries, almost 80% at one point. How do you think this will change and how is it affecting the travel industry?
KAUFER: It has affected the travel industry tremendously in terms of the number of people who can take these international trips, we would really appreciate if all governments would meet or act alone to allow foreigners to enter their country with the vaccination passport or a set of tests, according to their choice, in order to encourage more and more cross-border travel, vacations and, of course, to discover the whole world.
JOHN DICKERSON: Okay, Stephen Kaufer, thank you very much for being with us. We have to go to an ad and we’ll be back right away.