Will Covid-19 vaccines be the savior of the tourism industry?
By Adiel Mambara
THE inadequacies of globalization in the context of a pandemic have been characterized by a tension between an increasingly intensive transnational mobility of people and a continuous territorial regulation of these flows.
In the case of SARSCov-2 (Covid-19), which spread much faster in a relatively short period of time, the situation led to the increasingly selective opening and closing of borders, giving access some in the name of “travel essentials” while keeping others out.
Therefore, travel restrictions are part of a range of strategies that have been used to tackle global pandemics. Brownstein, et al. (2020) presented evidence to support this view, showing that the grounding of planes in the United States after September 11, 2001 and border closures delayed influenza dynamics during the 2001-2002 season of about two weeks.
While travel restrictions alone do not directly contribute to mitigating the spread of the pandemic, the strategy certainly saves time by helping governments and all relevant stakeholders to develop and deliver vaccines and at the same time expand non-pharmaceutical interventions (eg social distancing, public education, etc.).
Fast forward to 2021 as we see the light at the end of the tunnel, countries are starting to consider different perspectives to come out of this pandemic (Covid-19), which has seemed like a lifetime!
Among developed countries (considered highly vaccinated countries) such as the United Kingdom (UK), advances in vaccine deployment and testing technologies, as well as low rates of Covid-19 infection have reversed the transition to normality.
Many of us in the aviation industry have long called on our respective governments to recognize vaccination certification for countries in the same territories, including high value-added inbound markets by removing restrictions, and finally our voices are starting to be heard, but there is much more work to be done!
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) further supports this notion by stating: “Covid vaccines offer hope for a return to pre-pandemic normality, for international travel it is important that it There is a globally consistent and standardized approach to minimize complexity. This is particularly critical with regard to the equivalent treatment of different vaccines and the mutual recognition and acceptance of vaccination certificates. ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), WHO (World Health Organization) and CAPSCA (Collaboration Agreement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation) should lead to ensure harmonization in these areas ”.
The UK was well ahead of most countries in the world when it launched an internationally recognized vaccination program on December 8, 2020; Margaret Keenan, 90, became the first person to receive the Pfizer jab.
This has led other national leaders to scramble to exploit the symbolism of the cavalry on the arrival of flights carrying vaccines, as the aviation plays a vital role in the distribution of vaccines.
On January 16, 2021, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic shared on social media a photo of himself at Belgrade airport next to an Air Serbia Airbus A330 with Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccines on board.
Israel has been a pioneer in vaccinating its people, and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often been pictured at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport encountering vaccine shipments. If only they had all been quick to take responsibility for some of the disastrous policies first implemented when Covid first erupted. Say no more!
While there has been great progress in vaccine deployment in developed countries, there has also been vaccine reluctance among some populations around the world, which has proven to be a persistent challenge and has had an impact. on governments around the world failing to meet required population-wide targets. vaccination targets and restriction of international travel.
Concerns about vaccine development in a record time of just 15 months compared to normal vaccine development which traditionally takes 10 to 15 years has raised many uncomfortable questions for companies making the vaccine, and opponents of vaccinations (anti- vaccines) have never held such power to challenge the status quo!
While I have to admit that I am not a vaccine guru, nor am I an anti-vaxxer, I would like to point out that there is a strong argument supported by the scientific evidence that currently approved vaccines such as that Pfizer and AstraZeneca reduce Covid-19 significant transmission, but not to the same degree that they prevent serious illness.
In the UK at the time of writing, the UK’s main vaccination program has now weakened the link between positive Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions, which has seen restrictions on international travel lifted.
Related to vaccine distribution, there is a debate that has grown in importance on low- and middle-income countries (considered countries at risk), which are deprived of adequate vaccine supplies. They argued that they had been sidelined by high-income countries to obtain enough vaccines to cover a large part of their population, further limiting outbound and inbound international travel to and from these countries.
This coincides with the fact that some countries now require travelers to present proof of vaccination as a condition of entry into their country.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced the government’s mandatory vaccination policy – a mandate that will require public servants to be vaccinated by the end of October 2021 or be forced on unpaid leave.
In addition, all travelers must also be fully vaccinated by the end of October 2021 before boarding planes, trains or ships.
Airlines that have also introduced vaccination warrants include: Air New Zealand introduced a “no jab, no fly” policy for international travelers as well as its staff; In view of the resumption of its domestic and international flight services, AirAsia Malaysia has made the authorization to board its flights compulsory only for fully vaccinated adult passengers, with immediate effect. No doubt we’ll see many more airlines introducing similar vaccine mandates in the not-so-distant future.
As we now enter a new (post-pandemic) era, the nightmare of lockdowns is slowly coming to an end: Governments are changing their travel policies and travel agencies are re-booking international vacation packages.
However, one thing is for sure, after the pandemic people are likely to feel a renewed desire to travel again. These signs clearly indicate that there is a relationship between ‘pent-up demand’ and ‘trust’, both of which are important in the recovery phase of the pandemic.
Trust is essential because it is strongly correlated with areas that associate few restrictions or obstacles to movement and effective vaccine deployment.
The lifting of travel restrictions in the travel and tourism industry has been hailed in an industry that has been devastated by the effects of this pandemic. It’s also good news to see that social tolerance for immunization mandates and incentives appears to be increasing around the world, with more European countries adopting digital immunization passports and more governments and communities. large employers implementing vaccination mandates.
Whatever you think of vaccine passports, if you want to travel abroad you will need them and it will probably be the norm for years to come!
I am sure we will continue to debate whether a vaccination warrant should be applied to air travel as a potential ticket to freedom, but in my opinion any strategy related to restoring our freedom of movement is a good thing. Only time will tell !
- Mambara is a Zimbabwean, who has demonstrable work experience in the travel industry over the past 25 years. He has held managerial positions, working for British Airways Travel stores, Business Travel Management and currently runs Royal Brunei Airlines in the UK as Country Manager. In addition, he also holds positions on the Council of Representatives of Airlines in the United Kingdom (Baruk), the Foreign Airline Association in the United Kingdom (FAA) and the University of West London Alumni Association.