Are vaccines wanted for flying or touring? It’s probably, specialists say

While interest in vaccination against Covid-19 may vary, the desire to travel is largely absent.

A study published by Hilton last October found that 95% of Americans miss travel. But those who cannot or do not want to have a Covid shot may be excluded from some routine travel experiences like flying, cruising, and business conferences.

So the decision on whether to vaccinate (or not) can have an impact on future travel plans.

Travel abroad

While no country has yet announced compulsory vaccination, it is “very likely” that some vaccinations will become available once they are freely available, said Sharona Hoffman, co-director of the Law-Medicine Center at Case Western Reserve University’s Law School.

“I would suspect that New Zealand could be a country that requires proof of vaccination for travel purposes,” she said, referring to the country’s strict travel ban and low Covid-19 infection rate.

Hoffman said countries need to weigh the need for tourist income against the inherent coronavirus risks that travelers bring.

“We know there are large numbers of people planning to opt out of the vaccination immediately, even in rich countries like the United States,” she said. “Will the nations be willing to give up tourism income to such individuals?”

A survey published last month by market research firm Ipsos with the World Economic Forum found that 69% of Americans were willing to be vaccinated against Covid-19, up 5% from October. Residents of other countries, including China (80%), Mexico (77%), the United Kingdom (77%), and Australia (75%), are likely to adopt the vaccine in greater numbers. Residents of Russia (43%) and France (40%) showed the least intention to get vaccinated in the survey.

In countries with tight border restrictions and low Covid-19 rates like New Zealand, travelers may need to be vaccinated to visit.

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In order to resume travel as soon as possible, global travel organizations are pushing for Covid-19 tests for vaccine mandates. The International Air Transport Association estimated the global vaccination roll-out in at least 12 to 24 months and said last month it was “not an option” to wait for vaccines to reopen borders.

On a Reuters video panel last Monday, Gloria Guevara, CEO of the World Trade & Tourism Council (WTTC), made headlines when she said vaccination mandates discriminated against travelers.

“A blanket vaccination requirement would simply not discriminate against vulnerable groups like Generation X, Z and Millennials who should travel with evidence of a negative Covid test,” she said in a statement posted on the WTTC website on Tuesday.

Singapore has indicated that unvaccinated travelers may be subject to longer quarantine periods and additional testing.

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Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s minister for national development and co-chair of the country’s Covid-19 task force, said last week that “stay at home” quarantine times for vaccinated travelers may be shortened or eliminated.

In an interview with Channel News Asia, he said those who don’t get vaccinated “have to live with more frequent testing … quarantines and … all these other additional requirements”.

Take international flights

Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, opened an international debate when he described vaccination as a “necessity” for the airline’s international travelers in an interview with Nine News of Australia last November.

“When I speak to my colleagues at other airlines around the world, I think this will be a general topic,” he said.

On December 3, Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines CEO, told Today that vaccinations for international travel will eventually become a “requirement”.

“I suspect US airlines do not require general vaccinations.

Dean Headley

Co-author of the Airline Quality Rating

While no major airline has announced a requirement yet, many are waiting for government instructions. A Korean Air representative told CNBC’s Global Traveler that this “is not a policy that we can make independent decisions … we will follow government policies.”

A Singapore Airlines spokesman said the airline would follow instructions from the government and city-state regulators. Qatar Airways declined to comment.

In December, AirAsia Group’s CEO Tony Fernandes reiterated his assessment that it will be governments, not airlines, that will make the decision, adding that he foresees that Asian countries will “not let anyone in without a vaccination”.

Dean Headley, co-author of Airline Quality Rating and professor emeritus at Wichita State University, doesn’t believe that if Americans are not vaccinated, they will be completely excluded from flying.

“I suspect US airlines don’t need general vaccinations,” he said. “But they could make vaccinations a form of preferred travel status.”

Airline expert Dean Headley believes some, but not all, US airlines may require passengers to be vaccinated in order to fly in the future.

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“Requiring a vaccine would stifle demand for seating at first, but could ultimately bring flyers back faster as the vaccine is widely used,” he said.

While Headley does not require airlines to choose vaccinated flights instead of a blanket mandate – what the term calls a “real logistical nightmare” – he said airlines may decide to limit the percentage of vaccinated passengers booked on a flight Publish to help prospective customers flyers assess the flight risk.

Stay in a hotel

Hotels are unlikely to require vaccination of guests, said Professor David Sherwyn of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

“Because the vaccine is slowly being introduced, it is easy (not) practical for guests to need,” Sherwyn said.

Sherwyn envisions no major hotel brand taking this stance, but “it could be a boutique selling point” for hotels looking to enter a “covid-safe” market.

It is also possible that hotel conferences may require attendees to be vaccinated because “large numbers of people are indoors, sharing meals and networking,” Sherwyn said.

An executive at a high-end Indonesian resort said management of the hotel is considering requiring guests to be vaccinated once the country reopens to tourists. Although she refused to be named until the resort’s final decision on the matter was made, she said the staff believed that such a mandate would attract rather than dismiss the hotel’s affluent target market.

Go on a cruise or an organized tour

Cruises are “very likely” to require vaccination of passengers, Sherwyn said.

The challenge for cruise lines, however, will be shore excursions, said James Ferrara, president of travel company InteleTravel. He believes cruises will partner with fewer tour operators and move to “heavily restricted experiences” to keep passengers safe.

Tour operators, on the other hand, do not provide any vaccination plans, Ferrara said. Tour groups are too fluid and moving freely between accommodation, shopping, and sightseeing to come up with a workable solution, he said.

“Vaccinations are key to increasing consumer confidence in travel,” said Ferrara. “But science doesn’t support making it a ‘silver bullet’ as a requirement or protocol for all types of travel.”

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