Governments and regulatory bodies must work together to establish common rules around testing and Covid-19 vaccination requirements to stimulate global travel, according to industry experts.
Speakers at the WTM Virtual conference welcomed news of positive progress in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine but said a co-ordinated and simple approach to entry requirements was fundamental to rebuilding confidence.
John de Vial, director of financial protection and membership services at Abta, said technology could play a key role in allowing swift and accurate information to facilitate travel, with the potential to include health information within passports.
Referring to the approach used for clearance in relation to yellow fever, he said: “If we’re going to have ongoing innoculations and boosters, then that might be a really elegant solution that gets everybody back to a much more normal situation.
“I think the simpler that can be made and the acceptance of those around the world – almost the equivalent of the electronic travel authority that links to people’s passports – that’s going to make a real difference.”
De Vial said that while a vaccine offered hope for the reopening of borders in the long-term, the impact of a roll-out was unlikely to be seen until late spring or summer 2021.
He added that governments needed to “get their acts together” in the short-term around areas such as travel corridors and testing as “we need to get through the winter first”.
Alan French, chief executive of Thomas Cook, said: “The vaccine in the long term is going to play a crucial role but there’s going to be a period of time before the vaccine arrives where testing is going to have to be put in place and we’re going to have to co-ordinate all of that.
“Governments are going to eventually find a way of working through that. The travel industry is probably not going to be the body that drives that but I think that governments will want assurances.
“People travelling from areas with high instances of the disease to low areas of the disease would require different regulatory frameworks than people who are broadly on the same footing.”
He added: “We can see quite different approaches in how [countries] will manage this and I don’t think it will be simple to put in place.
“We talked about trust and confidence, and there’s a lot of news floating around about how easy it is to fabricate some of the test certificates so I think there will be a push by governments to make sure people coming through their borders are who they say they are and are actually vaccinated or tested to the level that they would like.”
Luis Araujo, president of the Portuguese National Tourism Authority, said coordination between national and international authorities was crucial to recovery, adding: “Everyone is running on their own track and we should be running together.”
Araujo said the tourism industry must move on from being seen as “victims or villains” and should instead be viewed as part of the solution for overcoming the impact of the pandemic and rebuilding economies.
Carrie Kwik, executive director Europe for the Singapore Tourism Board, echoed calls for a coordinated approach but said individual destinations must also establish their credentials to build confidence in travellers.
She said: “It’s about three things, the track record of how the destination has managed the pandemic, communication that is clear and timely and transparent, and the types of health and safety protocols that you have in the destination.
“These things are what we need to continue to put emphasis on, even if there are positive signals for vaccine research and the ability to have a vaccine available hopefully at some time in 2021.”