Americans who have been fully vaccinated with COVID-19 could soon turn their vaccination papers into the golden ticket of international vacations.
Domestic tourism has started to increase again in recent weeks, but the demand for international travel remains low. Many countries continue to impose restrictions on those who are allowed to cross their borders in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, restricting entry to their citizens or those conducting essential business. weak.
As of early April, internet searches for domestic flights were higher than in the same period in 2019, according to data from travel app Hopper. pre-pandemic levels. Currently, only about a third of searches on Hopper for flights this summer are to international destinations, with the remaining two thirds dedicated to US domestic trips.
“This is usually much closer to a 50/50 split in normal years,” said Adit Damodaran, an economist at Hopper.
But some countries, in an effort to re-stimulate the need for travel, have opened up opportunities for people to present evidence of a full COVID-19 vaccination. Iceland has taken this to the extreme – tourists are only allowed to visit the island nation known for its hot springs and volcanoes if they have been fully vaccinated with COVID-19 or can present proof that they had been sick before and were cured.
Iceland originally planned to put the new travel rules into effect on March 26, but the government later delayed the policy until April 6.
Many other countries, such as Ecuador and Nepal, have chosen a different approach from vaccinated tourists. Instead of requiring them to be vaccinated, vaccinated persons can ignore requirements that they should be tested for COVID-19 prior to their trip. Therefore, border patrolmen will require proof of the vaccination instead of the COVID-19 test results upon entry into the country.
What areas are prepared to reopen their borders?
So far, the list of countries loosening their regulations for vaccine vacationers is a short one, but travel experts expect it to grow in the near future.
“Evidence shows that many countries relax entry requirements – by removing quarantine / checked – for well-vaccinated travelers.
Many companies and organizations developing “vaccine passport” that could simplify the problem for international tourists. The International Air Transport Association, an air trade conglomerate, is rolling out a Digital Pass that allows users to upload proof of vaccination or COVID test results to a mobile app. So far, 23 airlines have agreed to try the IATA Travel Pass, including Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines.
Among the regions that appear willing to loosen rules for vaccinated people is the Caribbean, Staab said. “The Caribbean seems to be the most open to tourists today and that is likely to continue, whether it’s open to all tourists or just those who have been fully vaccinated,” he noted. Many cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, have announced plans to resume trips out of Caribbean ports with only fully vaccinated people allowed to board.
In Europe, politicians in countries such as Portugal and Greece, whose economies are heavily dependent on tourism, have suggested they have plans to allow vaccinated people to visit. that tourism. However, in these cases, Americans can still be banned from entry, depending on how the rules are established and whether specific vaccines are required to enter. The vaccine is made by Moderna
eg, only received full or urgent authorization in 41 countries, while vaccines from Pfizer
approved in some capacity by more than 100 countries.
However, a traveler who has not been vaccinated is not without an option. Many countries have continued to allow tourists to visit, even if they have not been vaccinated. In these cases, travelers often have to have a negative COVID test before their trip, and sometimes have to do additional testing and a period of self-isolation upon arrival.
And some of these countries, such as Mexico, may not ask for proof of tourist vaccinations, because those policies can backfire and discourage some travelers, especially from America.
“They are heavily reliant on travel and I don’t see them being obligated to vaccinate into this country right now,” said Bruce Rosenberg, chief executive of HotelPlanner, a group booking website. “If anything, they would say, ‘We are more welcoming and more open.'”
US Embassy, US News and World Report, The Points Guy
Some regions of the world are more likely to remain closed for recreational tourists. For example, most Western European countries have maintained very strict policies about who can enter their borders amid broader pandemic lockdowns. And many of the smaller island states in the Pacific have maintained completely closed borders in the wake of the pandemic, due to the relative lack of medical facilities and the vulnerability of national outbreaks. Sick people enter their country.
The cost of traveling abroad can increase as more businesses return
Flight search patterns show that as countries add new policies that encourage vaccinated people to visit, they see a significant increase in interest. According to data from Hopper, after Iceland reopened its borders to vaccinated tourists, there were 93% of flights searching. And a 77% increase in searches for flights to Portugal after officials announced their intention to welcome back tourists from the UK.
But higher demand won’t necessarily lead to more capacity. Airlines have largely reduced the number of flights they operate in the wake of a pandemic having to cut costs and they may be slow to resume full operations in the event of an additional increase in COVID cases. -19 across the globe resulting in multiple delays in mobility.
“Reduced capacity, increased demand and the need to offset costs are likely to drive up fares by the end of this year next year,” Staab said. “Airlines will immediately return 100% of their pre-pandemic routes, even as demand increases, meaning demand may outnumber supply and airlines may raise prices. charge but still fill the seat ”.
Airlines may even be able to raise prices “to compensate for having to set up the infrastructure to check if passengers have been vaccinated,” Staab added.
In addition, the increasing cost of jet fuel will add to the cost of tourists. The airline ticket regulator is now recommending people to book their international trips by the end of May to lower prices – as well as easing policies for a limited time to change flights for free. with universal fares.
However, at the same time, prices may be reduced for other travel-related costs, including hotels and activities. “Mexico and the Caribbean are still a value,” Rosenberg said because they are trying to attract customers to leave the United States, “Rosenberg said, adding that the same philosophy that applies in major European cities is central. travel mind.