According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTCC), the Covid-19 vaccine will help in the long-term but ‘must not be a requirement for travel’. Jenny Southan reports

The WTTC says that international travel can restart at minimal risk with a combination of effective testing regimes and robust hygiene protocols, without waiting for the global roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The WTTC issued a statement on the matter along with the Airports Council International (ACI), the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), saying that requiring the vaccine for travel “will further delay the revival of the already ailing travel and tourism sector, which needs to restart now to save millions of jobs and help restart the global economy”.

(Recent research from the WTTC shows a 174 million jobs in travel and tourism around the world are now threatened.)

It also highlights how the safe opening of existing travel corridors such as London Heathrow to Dubai, with appropriate testing and hygiene protocols, demonstrates international travel can already take place at minimal and acceptable risk.

Together with ACI, WEF and ICC, the WTTC has identified four key measures which need to be implemented to restore international travel safely:

1. Globally recognised testing regime on departure
It is essential that quick and cost-effective testing to international standards are introduced on departure for all passengers to minimise the risk of transmission.

2. Common health and hygiene protocols
Heightened health and hygiene protocols, such as the WTTC Safe Travels Protocols, can ensure the risk of transmission during travelling is actually lower than in the community at large.

3. Risk management regime
All governments should adopt a clear policy of risk management in accordance with the recent recommendations of 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 in stark contrast to the present risk avoidance approach, reflected in 14-day quarantines, which is crushing both business and leisure travel

4. Travel passes
Vaccines can work alongside digital travel passes, such as CommonPass, AOK Pass and IATA Travel Pass to ensure the common certification of test results to revive travel, without the need for restrictive and unnecessary travel barriers and counterproductive quarantines.

However, the organisations warn against the introduction of “health passports” – as opposed to internationally-recognised travel passes – which would only further delay the recovery.

CommonPass Vaccine certificate

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO, says: “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 and 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.”

Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Airports Council International (ACI) World Director General, says: “While we welcome the rapid development and deployment of vaccines, there will be a considerable period before they are widely available so, during the transition period, tests and vaccines together will play a key role on the industry recovery.

“As they become more available for travellers, there must be a proportionate approach to vaccination before travel balanced with a risk-based approach to testing.

“Just as quarantine effectively halted the industry, a universal requirement for vaccines could do the same and a coordinated and risk-based approach to testing and vaccination going forward will provide passengers with a safe travel environment and foster confidence in air travel.”

Christoph Wolff, Head of Mobility at the World Economic Forum, says: “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.”

John Denton, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), says: “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 roll out would continue to jeopardise 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.”

According to WTTC’s 2020 Economic Impact Report, in 2019 Travel & Tourism was responsible for one in ten jobs (330 million in total), making a 10.3 per cent contribution to global GDP and generating one in four of all new jobs.

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