In a recent statement, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and other major bodies in the tourism industry encourage the restart of international travel without requiring a vaccine. This is while noting that vaccines will definitely help in the long run, but a combination of effective testing and hygiene protocols is enough to restart the industry.
WTTC President & CEO Gloria Guevara said:
WTTC welcomes the incredible developments and hugely encouraging medical advances on COVID-19 vaccines which has seen the beginning of coronavirus vaccinations.
The vaccines currently being rolled out are truly game-changers, and hopefully just the first of many which could transform the world, mark the beginning of our return to a more normal way of life and see the return of safe and confident international travel.
Safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines will be critical to combatting COVID-19 and restoring confidence for people to interact with one another. However, it will take considerable time to vaccinate the world and for the vaccines to have a significant effect on the global population, and the global Travel & Tourism sector simply cannot wait. Vaccination must not be a requirement to travel but should co-exist with testing regimes and be considered as a progressive enhancement to already safe travel.
Governments must now demonstrate leadership by opening bilateral travel corridors on key international routes with countries that apply the same robust risk management processes.”
The Airports Council International (ACI), the World Economic Forum (WEF), and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) agree with the WTTC that the distressed sector cannot wait for COVID-19 vaccines, to save the industry, millions of employees worldwide, and the economy. In 2019, it was reported that the travel and tourism industry contributed about 10.3 percent of the global GDP.
In a study, the WTTC has identified 174 million tourism-related jobs worldwide that are threatened. The restoration of international travel, while maintaining proper hygiene protocols could save these employees and small business owners.
Earlier this month, ACI World Director-General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said: “Just as quarantine effectively halted the industry, a universal requirement for vaccines could do the same. While we welcome the rapid development and deployment of vaccines, there will be a considerable period before they are widely available. The industry cannot wait till vaccination becomes available worldwide. During the transition period, tests and vaccines together will play a key role on the industry recovery.”
4 Key Measures for International Travel
The WTTC, ACI, WEF, and ICC, have identified four key measures that need to be implemented to allow the safe restoration of international travel.
#1 Globally-Recognized Testing Regime Before Departure
As a standard, quick and affordable testing procedures are to be carried out before departure. This will be true for all passengers of all ages and origins. The WTTC and major industry bodies believe that this will help minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
ICC Secretary General John Denton said: “Global mobility is a powerful economic driver — one that supports many businesses and livelihoods currently facing deeply uncertain futures. Hinging the revival of international travel on an extended global vaccine rollout would continue to jeopardize the futures of these businesses as well as those who rely on travel to safeguard their livelihoods. As a better approach, rapid and reliable systematic testing can effectively stem the spread of the virus today, allow travel to resume safely, and enable an effective reboot of the global economy.”
#2 Standardized Health and Hygiene Protocols
Strict implementation of health and hygiene protocols will help minimize the risk of transmission. An example of such is the #SafeTravels Global Protocols released by the WTTC in May as a stamp for the new normal.
#3 Risk Management Matrix
As in any other governing body or any business for that matter, a clear risk management matrix should be in place. Risk management policies should be in accordance with the recommendations by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce (CART), and the guidelines from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (EASA/ECDC).
This is as opposed to the currently popular 14-day quarantine requirements that affect travelers who do so for both business and leisure activities, thus affecting the industry itself.
World Economic Forum Head of Mobility, Christoph Wolff, said: “Given the enormous challenge of achieving widespread vaccine distribution and availability, diagnostics will remain paramount for the foreseeable future. It is imperative that governments and industry collaborate to enable a hybrid regime of risk management interventions which may include testing, vaccines, and other measures as part of a broader hierarchy of controls.”
#4 International Travel Passes
Digital travel passes can ensure the common certification of test results to restore international travel, without sacrificing time for unnecessary quarantines, which were deemed counterproductive. In the release, it was noted that attempting to introduce “health passports” would delay the recovery of the tourism industry.