While interest in getting vaccinated for Covid-19 might vary, the desire to travel largely does not.
A study released by Hilton last October indicated that 95% of Americans miss traveling. But those who either can’t or won’t take a Covid vaccination may find themselves shut out of some routine travel experiences, such as flying, cruising and going to business conferences.
Here’s how the choice of whether to vaccinate (or not) may affect travel plans in the future.
Though no country has announced a mandatory vaccination requirement yet, it’s “very possible” that some will once vaccinations become freely available, said Sharona Hoffman, co-director of the Law-Medicine Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
“I would guess that New Zealand might be a country that would require proof of vaccination for travel purposes,” she said, citing the country’s rigid travel ban and low Covid-19 infection rate.
Hoffman said countries will have to balance the need for tourist income with the inherent coronavirus risks that travelers bring with them.
“We know that large numbers of people plan to decline vaccination as of now, including in wealthy countries, such as the United States,” she said. “Are nations going to be willing to give up on tourism income from such individuals?”
A survey released last month by market research firm Ipsos with the World Economic Forum showed that 69% of Americans were willing to get vaccinated against Covid-19, a 5% increase from October. Residents of other countries look likely to embrace the vaccine in higher numbers, including China (80%), Mexico (77%), the U.K. (77%) and Australia (75%). Residents of Russia (43%) and France (40%) showed the lowest intention to get vaccinated in the survey.
Keen to restart travel as soon as possible, global travel organizations are pushing for Covid-19 testing over vaccine mandates. Estimating a global vaccination rollout would take at least 12 to 24 months, the International Air Transport Association stated last month that it was “not an option” to wait for vaccines to reopen borders.
“A blanket vaccination requirement would simply discriminate against non-vulnerable groups, such as Generation X, Z and Millennials, who should be able to travel with proof of a negative Covid test,” she said in a statement published Tuesday on WTTC’s website.
Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s minister for national development and co-chair of the country’s Covid-19 task force, said last week that vaccinated travelers may have their “stay-at-home” quarantine periods shortened or eliminated altogether.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce kicked off an international debate when he referred to vaccinations as a “ضرورة” for the airline’s international travelers last November, during an interview with Australia’s Nine News.
“Talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe, I think it’s going to be a common theme across the board,” he said.
On Dec. 3, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told Today that he thinks vaccinations for international travel will eventually become a “requirement.”
Although no major airline has announced a requirement yet, many are awaiting governmental guidance. A representative for Korean Air told CNBC’s Global Traveler that this “is not a policy we can independently decide … we will follow government policies.”
A Singapore Airlines spokesperson said the airline would follow guidance from the city-state’s government and regulatory authorities. Qatar Airways declined to comment.
In December, AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes echoed sentiments that it will be governments, not airlines, making the decision, adding that he foresees that Asian countries “won’t let anyone in without a vaccination.”
Dean Headley, co-author of the Airline Quality Rating and an emeritus professor at Wichita State University, does not believe Americans will be completely shut out from flying if they are not vaccinated.
“I suspect that U.S. airlines will not be requiring vaccinations across the board,” he said. “But they could make vaccinations a form of preferred travel status.”
Airline expert Dean Headley believes some, but not all, U.S. airlines may require passengers to be vaccinated to fly in the future.
Sandy Huffaker | Getty Images News | Getty Images
“Requiring a vaccine would suppress the demand for seats at first, but could ultimately bring flyers back quicker as the vaccine is widely administered,” he said.
While Headley does not foresee airlines opting for vaccinated-only flights in lieu of a blanket mandate — calling the notion a “real logistical nightmare” — he said airlines may decide to post the percentage of vaccinated passengers that are booked on a flight to help potential flyers assess the risk of flying.
An executive at a high-end Indonesian resort said the hotel’s management is considering requiring guests to be vaccinated once the country reopens to tourists. Though she declined to be named, pending the resort’s final decision on the matter, she said the staff feels such a mandate would attract rather than turn away the hotel’s affluent target market.
The challenge for cruise ships, however, will be shore excursions, said James Ferrara, president of travel company InteleTravel. He believes cruises will work with fewer tour companies and transition to “heavily restricted experiences” to keep passengers safe.
Tour companies, on the other hand, aren’t indicating plans to require vaccinations, said Ferrara. Tour groups are too fluid, moving freely between lodging, shopping and tourist sites, to make it a workable solution, he said.