How Will The COVID-19 Vaccine Affect Travel?

As federal health agencies deem COVID-19 vaccines safe for use, countries around the globe will start to administer mass vaccination efforts. Many are wondering how this will impact international travel and the resurgence of the tourism industry. Below we have discussed the changes that travellers and tourism operators are likely to experience over the coming 18-month period.

How will the vaccine be distributed?

In Canada, The United States, and the UK the COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed in the month of December with a second dose arriving at the start of 2021 for high priority populations. February through April high priority groups will continue to be vaccinated such as school-age children, seniors, and individuals with comorbidities. The general public will start to receive vaccinations in the spring and early summer with subsequent vaccination schedules progressing into fall 2021.

Who will be left out?

Due to the advanced purchasing of vaccines by federal governments, whoever can pay the most at the earliest stage of production gets to the front of the vaccine queue.

The vast majority of vaccines are going to high-income countries and some middle-income countries with manufacturing capacity. For low-income countries, it could be years longer for their citizens to be vaccinated. For the tourism industry, this means that workers in developing nations will continue to be subjected to high-risk environments, such as hotels, cruise ships, restaurants, and markets.

How will this affect travel?

Masks and social distancing will still be recommended for some time after people are vaccinated. It is still unknown if the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines protect people from infection entirely or just from symptoms. For this reason, much of the travel industry will still be required to adhere to COVID-19 protocol, including reduced capacity. Travel operators will likely have to make a decision regarding the vaccinated status of their customers. Will only vaccinated individuals be accepted as customers? Will rapid testing be widely available? Will operators throw caution to the wind in an attempt to increase bookings? The approach that each tourism business takes will ultimately depend upon their source market and traveller budget.

As the general public starts to receive vaccinations it is likely that the domestic tourism industry will see a travel boom. This is especially true as the vaccination schedule aligns with the peak travel season in the Northern Hemisphere.

As borders start to open for those that have been vaccinated, countries that have had a strong response to COVID-19 will likely be the first to see an increase in international travel. Travel experts are predicting that Canada will perform well, especially with American tourists. Australia, New Zealand, South-East Asia and the South Pacific will also be of significant international interest. Destinations offering beaches, outdoor recreational activities, and historical landmarks are anticipated to perform well.

Tourists should expect to see discounted rates for hotel rooms and flights in 2021 as business operators push to meet their capacity limits and mitigate further losses. There will also be a boom in tourism bookings for late 2021 and early 2022, as consumer confidence in travel resurfaces. 

Experts are predicting that large scale hotel chains will be the preferred accommodation option for travellers due to mandatory sanitization procedures across global brands. The cruise ship industry will continue to struggle as consumers remain hesitant of crowding and stories of extended quarantines remain fresh in the minds of passengers. The pricing strategy of airlines will vary drastically depending on their location and route exclusivity. European and American airlines will offer reduced pricing, while Canadian flight pricing is expected to remain idle (except for promotional routes). 

The Importance of Regenerative Travel

COVID-19 has been an incredibly difficult time for communities around the world that are dependent upon tourism for local livelihoods.

Although many large companies have received financial assistance from the government to avoid an industry-wide crash, this funding was predominantly used to uphold operational costs rather than employee retention- resulting in widespread layoffs. 

COVID-19 has been an incredibly difficult time for communities around the world that are dependent upon tourism for local livelihoods. Small scale operators and low-income producers were also disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 as governments in developing countries did not offer financial support. 

For this reason, tourists need to think about where they will visit and why, as your financial contribution in the next year will be of extreme importance to communities around the world, facilitating a global and equitable recovery.

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