By: HotelPlanner.com Co-Founder/CEO Tim Hentschel
We all welcomed the news of vaccine rollouts that started in January this year, but what does this specifically mean for the travel and hospitality industry? How do vaccine passports work? And are they ethical?
Experts agree that we will start to see real progress against the spread of Covid once 70 percent of a country’s population is vaccinated. We’re already hearing more optimistic sentiments from many governments, travel organizations and businesses as countries reach 30% to 50% vaccination levels. Still, the rate of vaccinations varies greatly per country, and this is causing daily changes to the do-not-fly list, which makes it extremely challenging to reliably plan international travel.
That said, there is great optimism in our industry. For example, the International Air Transport Association Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac was quoted in March that “personal and leisure travel will return from the 2H2021. ″
Tim Hentschel, CEO and co-founder of HotelPlanner, we are developing the tools to travel safely in Covid, with vaccines on a worldwide rollout, he discusses how this will affect tourism and hospitality locally and across the world.
Vaccine passports become essential
The European Commission has been the latest body to propose vaccine passports. While there are concerns about discrimination against the unvaccinated, an internationally recognized official certification for vaccinated travelers would help to lift quarantine restrictions and ease the processes of entering other countries.
In fact, Singapore Airlines began piloting a digital vaccine passport in December 2020 and has plans to integrate it into their mobile app by mid-2021.
During the pandemic, travel operators have acted quickly to label hotels that have complied with Covid-19 countermeasures and get the word out to their customers.
In the coming months, we expect operators to start implementing new measures based on vaccine passports that will be in line with government regulations. The simplest way is to have travelers include a vaccine certification as part of their personal details for bookings. These details could then be shared with partner airlines and hotels to facilitate a smoother, less restricted travel experience.
Of note, it’s important to distinguish the vaccine passport initiatives individual countries or international bodies are pursuing versus what some private sector venues are piloting. For example, the Biden Administration clarified recently that they would not be sponsoring or mandating a country-wide vaccine passport and that any related projects would be up to the private sector. Florida’s Governor also recently banned the use of vaccine passports in the state entirely, which could trend in other states. To date, New York is one of the few states that has piloted what they’re calling an Excelsior Pass to verify vaccine status before entering venues like Madison Square Garden or Barclays Center.
Green lanes and travel bubbles will revive suffering travel destinations in the short term
Governments should speed up establishing green lanes or travel bubbles with ‘safe’ countries, where travelers are exempt from quarantine. These partnerships will be critical for bringing life back to economies that rely on service-based and labor-based industries.
Thailand, for instance, has seen an 83 percent drop in foreign tourists. This is a devastating blow that contributed to the Thai economy falling by 6.1 percent in 2020, its worst performance since the 1997 Asia financial crisis.
The Thai Hotels Association estimates at least a million workers have been laid off from its hospitality sector as hundreds of hotels have closed. Domestic tourism and the implementation of special tourist visas for long stays have done little to reverse the pandemic’s impact on the industry.
Thailand’s special tourist visa permits foreign visitors to stay up to 90 days, including 14 days of quarantine, with the option for two extensions. It has attracted only a fraction of the expected 1,200 monthly visitors since its launch in October 2020, likely due to the lengthy quarantine requirement.
India is now experiencing a huge spike in Covid infections, and the USA has added them to the list of over 100 countries that US citizens cannot fly to. As India is one of the US’s largest trading partners, this will hurt both countries with similar effect to the tourism devastation in Thailand.
As we look to the future, there is a golden opportunity for the USA and other developed nations of the world, which have successfully implemented vaccine rollouts, to continue to help countries that are still challenged. This will help the USA, EU, and UN reestablish themselves as global leaders. If all goes well, we could be celebrating a return to near normal by the Tokyo Olympics this summer.