VACCINE TOURISM: LURING TRAVELERS THROUGH JABS

Faced with Shortages, Some Venture Further to get their Jabs.

Amid the disproportioned access to COVID-19 vaccines, some tourist-reliant destinations have made headway with inoculating their local population. These destinations are now earmarking the surplus doses for travelers, who are unable to secure vaccination in their countries. Hence, the long wait is fueling vaccine tourism, a trend that has recently emerged across the world.

The tourism industry has been the most affected industry by the pandemic, and countries want a safe way to restart what is a major economic engine. But the question remains, that how many of them will be willing to book a trip for the shot?

COURSE OF ACTION

Countries like Russia, Maldives, certain Caribbean islands, New York City, and Alaska are among the few destinations working towards offering international visitors the chance to get vaccinated against COVID-19 during a visit.

New York City was one of the prominent cities to announce its plan to offer Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine to tourists in places like the Times Square and the High Line. In May 2021, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “This summer, you’re going to see tourism come alive again in New York City, you’re going to see a lot of jobs come back because of it. We want to go the extra mile, make it easy for tourists.” The state has also created pop-up clinics for both residents and visitors inside subway stations and airports.

Additionally, Maldives was also among the early few destinations to announce its initiative known as ‘3V,’ for ‘Visit, Vaccinate, Vacation,’ which aims to vaccinate visitors upon arrival to help it meet its tourism goals. Maldives’ Tourism Minister Abdulla Mausoom’s emphasized, “The main idea of tourism being open is to provide a reasonably safe tourism with minimum inconvenience”.

RETAILERS HOP-ON THE NEW PREPOSITION

Travel distributors are finally jumping on this opportunity to boost sales while making an effort to offer a dual-purpose vacation and vaccination trip. Norwegian travel agency World Visitor is offering vaccination packages to countries such as Russia. The latter part of the trip includes a vaccination with the Russian-made Sputnik V.

Similarly, a Bangkok-based tour operator Unithai Trip has created a “vaccine tour” for its clients who are eager to get their COVID-19 vaccines before their own nation’s vaccine rollout, which started in June 2021. This “vaccine tour” to the U.S. is offering a 10-day trip to San Francisco for a Johnson & Johnson shot.

RETHINKING VACCINE TOURISM?

As vaccine inequality lingers and deepens, travel demand and bookings are rising from travelers who are ready to be tourists again and leisure in foreign lands where unvaccinated population also resides. So destinations offering one vaccine to an international traveler would ultimately offer one less for the local population. Hence, some destinations are rethinking the idea of providing jabs to visitors keeping in mind the availability of dozes for their citizens.

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, that was previously offering tourists free COVID-19 vaccinations has now disabled that option to apply for COVID-19 vaccines. Also, a German-based travel agency Fit Reisen (or ‘Fit Travel’) was offering vaccine vacations or, ‘Impfreisen’, in February 2021. Now the idea has been put on ice as the vaccine rollout in Germany was expected to begin in April 2021. This exhibits that

As parts of the travel industry pin their hopes on vaccine tourism, mass vaccination remains the key to inculcate travel confidence, lead to ease of travel, and boost domestic and international tourism shortly. While the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines is a great relief, and vaccine tourism is surely one way destinations could get a jumpstart in welcoming travelers and rebooting their tourism economy.