RELAXING PROTOCOLS FOR FULLY VACCINATED TRAVELERS IS IN MODE
As countries re-open their borders, destinations that rely on tourism have got their chance at redemption. A trend that’s visibly gaining momentum is luring fully vaccinated travelers to destinations. To that extent, the industry is pursuing a responsible restart. Several destinations are now beginning to relax arrival and screening protocols around testing and long quarantines for fully vaccinated travelers – those who have completed two weeks after receiving their last recommended dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. From Seychelles to Croatia, Iceland to Costa Rica, destinations around the world are gearing up for post-vaccination trips.
COUNTRIES UNLOCK: CALM OR CHAOS?
The global vaccination race is ongoing. According to The New York Times, more than 1,002 million vaccine doses have been regulated worldwide as of April 24, 2021, yet that accounts for nearly 164+ million fully-vaccinated people per Pharmaceutical Technology. Simply put, a larger share of the global population is yet to be vaccinated. In many countries, there is an evident imbalance in the vaccination drive as the preference is on priority groups such as the clinically vulnerable, people in their 60s and older; and front-line workers, such as doctors and nurses. As of mid-April, numerous countries permitted those above 45 years of age to get vaccinated, while the U.S. and India now allow its adult population to be vaccinated.
According to January survey conducted by the travel agency network Virtuoso, 83% of respondents over 77 said they were more ready to travel in 2021 than in 2020, and 95% of the same group said they would wait to travel until they received their vaccine (in other age groups, the share of travelers dipped to 80%). As destinations lay down the red carpet for fully vaccinated travelers, they ought to restructure their offerings to align with the traveler demographics. More than likely, the initial wave of fully vaccinated travelers may comprise of middle-aged to senior travelers, rather than a diverse mix of age groups.
With vaccines currently available to a slice of the entire global population, questions loom around the future of family travel. In most countries, children are at the bottom of the list for vaccination. With summer travel on the anvil, families may find themselves on polarizing ends of destination selection and their regulations. In addition, the pre-pandemic demand markets may be upended as various countries are at different stages of vaccinating their population. For example, China was the largest and fastest inbound travel market for several countries for more than a decade. In the current scenario, it is unlikely for destinations to rely on China overwhelmingly like they used to. Another aspect is recognizing specific vaccines; few destinations are relaxing their norms for travelers who have been vaccinated with certain jabs versus the others – Sinovac is seldom recognized by markets outside of China.
TABLE: DESTINATION PROTOCOLS FOR FULLY VACCINATED TRAVELERS
|Destinations||Open to International Travelers||Borders Reopened Since||Quarantine Restrictions for Fully Vaccinated Travelers||Quarantine Restrictions for Non-Vaccinated Travelers (No. of Days)||COVID-19 Test Requirements for Vaccinated Travelers||Recognized Vaccines|
|Anguilla||Yes||July 1, 2021||Not Required||14||Required||AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech|
|Barbados||Yes||July 1, 2021||Not Required||7||Required||AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech|
|Belize||Yes||October 1, 2020||Not Required||No||Required||Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen|
|Croatia||Yes||July 1, 2020||Not Required||No||Required||AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech|
|Cyprus||Yes||June 1, 2020||Not Required||10||Not Required||AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech|
|Ecuador||Yes||June 1, 2020||Not Required||No||Required||AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech|
|Estonia||Yes||June 1, 2020||Not Required||No||Not Required||AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech|
|France||Yes||July 1, 2020||Not Required||7||Required||Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen|
|Greece||Yes||July 22, 2020||Not Required||7||Required||Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen|
|Georgia||Yes||July 31, 2020||Not Required||No||Required||Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen|
|Guatemala||Yes||September 18, 2020||Not Required||No||Required||Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen|
|Iceland||Yes||May 15, 2020||Not Required||14||Not Required||Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen|
|Israel||Yes||May 23, 2021||Not Required||No||Required||Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna|
|Lebanon||Yes||July 1, 2020||Not Required||3||Required||AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech|
|Montenegro||Yes||June 1, 2020||Not Required||14||Not Required||Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen|
|Nepal||Yes||February 22, 2021||Not Required||No||Required||Covaxin, Pfizer|
|Romania||Yes||July 1, 2020||Not Required||No||Not Required||Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen|
|Seychelles||Yes||March 25, 2021||Not Required||No||Not Required||Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen|
|Thailand||Yes||July 1, 2021||Not Required||14||Required||Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen|
|United States of America||Yes||June 22, 2020||Not Required||7||Required||Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen|
Learn more on Safe Travel Barometer’s Destination Dashboard
DESTINATIONS REINFORCING POLICIES
It’s no surprise that travel demand going forward will largely be shaped by perceptions of the destination’s COVID-19 trends and the state of healthcare infrastructure. Equally, destinations must enact clear guidelines for fully vaccinated travelers as local restrictions and social distancing guidelines are prominent worldwide. For instance, the U.S.’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has laid out some recommendations for fully vaccinated travelers which will help in deriving clarity around testing and quarantine.
As more of the world’s population is vaccinated, there will be an evident distinction between what the vaccinated can do and what the unvaccinated cannot. Destinations are also vaccinating their workers, as per France 24 Indonesia has started COVID-19 vaccine rollout for tourism workers, with those in Bali the first to be inoculated. By vaccinating more socially mobile and economically active groups first, Indonesian government officials hope the government can quickly reach herd immunity. This vaccination campaign of Indonesia aims to inoculate around 5,000 workers in hospitality. With travel industry workers getting vaccinated, the industry is trying to spread its wings closer towards the safety blanket.
Israel is a case study for countries worldwide, by being the leading nation in the vaccination drive. As per the evaluation done by John Hopkins 56.38% among the entire population of Israel have been fully vaccinated out of the 10+ million doses administered. Amid a drop in COVID-19 infection rates in Israel, the Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein has declared the country will open borders for international tourists by the end of May 2021.
BLIND BARGAIN FOR TRAVEL INDUSTRY
In the near term, fully vaccinated travelers will influence demand for travel to one destination over another. Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) must therefore seize the opportunity to develop new ways to assess consumer attitudes toward travel and accurately adjust their marketing campaigns accordingly. The focus should be on health and safety while promoting friction-free travel to and within a particular destination.
From fully flexible booking offers to falling COVID-19 cases, there’s an undeniable effort to entice vacationers to book as soon as possible. Traveling after being vaccinated in a way can provide more purview for the progress of regional and international travel. But the path ahead is filled with obstacles. In late April 2021, the U.S. State Department updated its ‘Do Not Travel’ guidance to about 80% of countries worldwide only two weeks after CDC’s new guidance for fully vaccinated travelers. As a consequence, destinations are now stuck in limbo and will face numerous stop and start cycles for the foreseeable future. Still, destinations that were potentially hoping for a revival by welcoming vaccinated travelers could reap the harvest, short-term as it may be.