Vaccinations: The Future of Travel?
While the COVID-19 pandemic may have put our travel plans on hold for the time being, the tourism industry is slowly beginning to recover as restrictions are being lifted in countries around the world. However, with changing entry requirements, quarantine rules and safety concerns, travellers are facing many uncertainties while planning their next overseas trip.
According to the World Tourism Organization, travel has been one of the industries most affected by the pandemic, putting jobs, economies and livelihoods at risk, and it is vital that we find ways to safely restart the sector. As travel lovers, here at Nezasa we are confident that the industry will eventually bounce back with the help of widespread vaccinations, efficient covid testing and the use of technology.
Travel vaccinations aren’t a new concept; in fact, vaccines are common for those travelling to certain countries and areas, offering immunity and protecting from a wide range of diseases such as yellow fever, hepatitis and dengue. With many travellers heading to exotic destinations, vaccines are essential for allowing us to travel while staying safe.
Thanks to the development and rollout of at least seven different vaccines against COVID-19, the number of severe cases of the virus are beginning to decrease. The WHO states that safe and effective vaccines will help to save lives and bring an end to the pandemic, and vaccinations are critical in ensuring that both travellers and local populations are protected, with priority going to the most vulnerable.
Currently, at least 1.3 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered, with around 3% of the worldwide population having been fully vaccinated. Although there is a long way to go, and social distancing, testing and quarantine measures are still paramount, these numbers offer a glimmer of hope for the future of the travel industry.
The growing interest in the possibility of a ‘vaccine passport’ - a digital copy of our immunisation records that will permit us to travel - has become a hot topic in the industry. According to Travel and Leisure, the idea of vaccine passports began as far back as the 1800s, and they are already in use in some countries in Africa and South America that require proof of vaccination against yellow fever.
Several countries have already stated that they will offer health passports to their citizens and enable those fully inoculated against COVID-19 to enter. Jordan is currently making plans for virus-free ‘Golden Zones’ that will allow vaccinated travellers to visit some of the country’s top destinations, and countries such as Greece, Slovenia and Belize are already welcoming vaccinated visitors, allowing them to bypass lengthy quarantines.
The European Commission has also proposed a Digital Green Certificate for travellers within the European Union, which will show proof of vaccination, negative test results and if an individual has recently recovered from the virus and therefore has immunity, facilitating safe and free movement between member countries. The tourism industry provides 27 million jobs and makes up 10% of the EU’s GDP, and the fast recovery of the sector is crucial.
However, there has been some controversy around the issue. The BBC states that vaccine passports may lead to discrimation against those who have not yet been vaccinated or are unable to, such as young people, pregnant women and those with medical issues, with only a small percentage of the population consequently being able to travel overseas. It is yet to be found how effective current vaccines are against new Covid variants, and the WHO adds that it is still unclear whether inoculation prevents the transmission of the virus.
Currently, proof of a negative Covid test is essential for most international travel, and this looks like it’s set to remain as borders begin to reopen with caution. Efficient testing is key to restoring the industry, and technology can be a powerful tool to assist with informing consumers of travel requirements before and during their trip.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, our partnership with Passolution offers users of our TripBuilder platform access to reliable and up-to-date information such as the quarantine requirements, COVID-19 testing, mask regulations and tracing apps of various destinations around the world. The integration of Passolution with our cutting-edge TripBuilder technology gives increased security and convenience for both travel brands and travellers when planning and booking personalised itineraries.
Innovative apps like The CommonPass and the IATA Travel Pass have been created, allowing travellers to verify their test results according to the entry requirements of their chosen destination. The apps are currently being tested by airlines such as United Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Emirates, and could be a game changer for the future of international air travel. France has also begun to test its digital health pass by checking passengers’ test results on flights to Corsica, boasting itself as the first European country to do so.
Furthermore, researchers at MIT have recently developed an artificial intelligence algorithm that is able to detect 98.5% of all COVID-19 infections and 100% of asymptomatic cases over the phone. With plans to release the technology in the form of a user-friendly app, this could have a huge impact on the tourism industry, allowing for real-time, free non-invasive testing.
Despite the current unpredictability of travel, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. At Nezasa, we believe that technology is imperative to the future of travel, and that’s why we continue to constantly improve our product to ensure travel brands can provide clients with the trip of a lifetime.