When will international travel resume?



The international tourism industry has been hit hard by COVID-19.  When will international tourism be able to resume and resume to what extent is the question that tourists are interested in.

1. Waiting for a prosperous summer 

 The tourism industry predicts that the number of foreign tourists will begin to increase in the middle of this year, as the COVID-19 vaccine and safety measures become more widely deployed and the number of COVID-19 cases in the world following a spike time will start to decrease.

 Much more remains to be done to prepare test procedures to enable regulators to eliminate quarantine, and find ways to seamlessly and safely share vaccination and cross-border testing information.  

 Tourism is seen as an economic thrust for countries to recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but how and to what extent tourism is open depends on the health and economic situation of each country.

 A group of travel agencies, organizations and companies around the world have collaborated on implementing a variety of global guidelines and recommendations, aiming to make travel safer, easier and less misleading for travellers who are looking forward to flights soon.

 Mr. De Oliveira (ACI) said that the gradual recovery of international travel in the summer could mean international air traffic reached 50% - 60% of the previous level in most countries.

 However, there are still a number of hurdles that tourists and the tourism industry will need to overcome.

When will international travel resume?

Waiting for a prosperous summer / ph: pexels

2. Quarantine problem

 At the time of an interview with CNN television in January, Mr. Luis Felipe de Oliveira was on the 12th of his 14-day quarantine period in Montreal, Canada after returning home from a business trip to the Dominican Republic,  and a private trip to Mexico.  He has been on quarantine four times in the past 7 months, staying at home for 56 days.

 Isolation is an essential measure to ensure safety during a pandemic.  However, this is also an obstacle to the tourism industry.  Ms. Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at the American Tourism Association said that elimination of quarantine could be considered if there is proper testing procedures in place.

 While vaccines play a key role in the fight against the epidemic, Mr. Luis Felipe de Oliveira expressed concern that the tourism industry cannot wait to recover until the vaccine is widely used globally.  Thus, testing becomes an essential part of safer travel in the future.

 Ms. Barnes mentioned a two-layer testing regime, which includes testing 72 hours before departure and again on arrival.  She cites the example from a pilot testing program in Hawaii where 10-day quarantine could be bypassed on most islands if a negative test results are found.

 Ms. Alessandra Priante, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)'s European Regional Director, said the combined testing method has been applied in many cases and the next step at a global level is monitoring,  "To make sure we can share a certain amount of data, because if we don't share the data, we really can't have all the information we should have."

3. Immunization certificate

 The UK vaccination program is considered to be doing quite well, as the country has passed its first milestone: vaccinating 15 million people at high risk.  Significant progress has also been made in other countries.

 Along with that, traveler confusion may also increase, with requirements for SARS-CoV-2 virus negative testing and immunization certification.

 Australia announced that it will require a negative PCR test for all tourists.  Qantas Airlines recommend that all international passengers may soon have an immunization certificate.

 According to Mr. Luis Felipe de Oliveira, there is a need for a harmonized global approach to identify and share vaccination and testing information accurately and safely.

 Current procedures - involving paper certificates from unknown laboratories, in a language that might be strange to the people who checked them, or a bunch of databases that are not connected  around the world - is less ideal.

 That's why ACI supports the use of health apps like CommonPass, a tool that allows travelers to share lab results and immunization records without disclosing other personal health information.  The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is also working on the Digital Pass platform.

 Even when the vaccine is widely available, not everyone will be vaccinated, and researchers are looking at whether the virus could be passed on to vaccinated people.  Masks, social distance, hygiene and other safety layers will remain a part of everyday life - and travel - for a long time to come.

4. Measures in the meantime

 One point to be clear is that seamless international travel is not going to happen overnight.

 During that time, more and more airlines temporarily come up with their own solutions.

 Delta Air Lines is testing a number of flights with tested and non-quarantined passengers to the Netherlands.  These flights use a combination of the gold standard PCR test with the fast antigen test.

 Mr. Luis Felipe de Oliveira evaluates rapid antigen testing as a potential aid to the recovery of the tourism industry.  Although considered less accurate, antigen testing is also faster and much less expensive than molecular testing, as a layer of risk management.

 Iceland and Hungary have accepted the concept of "immune passports", allowing people who have already had COVID-19 and have been cured to enter.

 Meanwhile, the tourist bubble - a two-way corridor - allows people to travel between countries without isolation.

Unfortunately, as with most things COVID-19 related, these measures are subject to change.

 Industry insiders all hope for a good future again for the tourism industry.

When will international travel resume?

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