Though green shoots are starting to appear in the form of domestic business travel, many travel managers do not expect demand for international travel to return to any significant levels until vaccine programmes are firmly in place. But while there’s little doubt that the corporate travel industry will be positively impacted by the vaccine, it’s not quite cut and dried.
FCM is a member of the Good Health Pass Collaborative, which is working together with the tech, health and travel sectors to create a blueprint for digital health pass systems which will hopefully build a safe path to restore international travel. Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding vaccines and travel, compiled by FCM.
Vaccine programmes are moving at different speeds around the world
While the UK and US are meeting their vaccination targets (with President Biden setting an ambitious goal of returning the country to ‘near-normal’ by 04 July 2021), many other countries around the world are yet to gain momentum.
In the meantime, much of Europe is experiencing a third wave and countries in sub-Saharan Africa, like South Africa, are anticipating a third wave this winter (May/June). This means travel advisories and restrictions remain in place despite the progress around vaccination programmes.
Different vaccines deliver different levels of protection against different strains
Much has been made of the new strains of COVID-19 emerging around the world. New strains have been detected in the UK, South Africa, Brazil, the US and Ghana (among others) and it raises a key concern: How do the available vaccines hold up against emerging variants?
Vaccine developers are working hard to establish the safety and efficacy of their vaccines against the new variants, and we can anticipate that work around vaccines (including the development of new, second-generation vaccines and boosters) will continue long into the future.
Vaccinated or not, travellers will still need to be careful
It follows then, that vaccinated travellers will need to exercise as much caution as ever. Think masks, social distancing, and the liberal use of hand sanitiser.
COVID protocols will remain in firmly place and many innovations, like touchless tech, are likely to become an industry standard.
TMCs will still vet suppliers and partners in the travel industry (from accommodation establishments to transport providers) to ensure strict health and safety measures are adhered to. In other words, returning to ‘normal’ will still feel very different as we get back to travel.
A global approach to vaccinations will be required
This is perhaps the biggest challenge of all: How will different countries handle their travel policies, especially with regards to the vaccine? Will travellers require a health passport detailing their vaccination status? Will negative PCR tests still be required? These are just a few of the issues which need to be ironed out.
What if travellers can’t or don’t want to be vaccinated?
A concern is that the roll-out of health passports for travel could potentially create a divide in the traveller demographics. What will happen to those travellers who might not have access to a vaccine or are not willing to be vaccinated?
Travel groups around the world have indicated that although they believe vaccinated individuals should be exempt from international testing requirements, they do not support “vaccine requirements as a prerequisite for travel.”