Health passports, a bittersweet measure for tourism

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Health passports, a bittersweet measure for tourism
Source: IATA
August 25, 2021

Although there is broad consensus regarding unifying protocols, the delay in the approval process for massively used vaccines makes this measure a double-edged sword 

When back in December the first vaccines against Covid-19 began to be approved as an emergency, no one would have imagined that at this point it could be so decisive for a person to be able to choose which one to be inoculated with and not precisely for scientific reasons. While it is unanimous that the tourism industry needs the approval of health passports to reactivate the international market, the way in which they are being implemented seems rushed and shrinks the business. 

Today, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) is calling on the US government to urgently expedite the approval of the UK AstraZeneca vaccine to help restore vital transatlantic travel.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), the leading health authority in the US, approved the Pfizer vaccine this week, however, it still does not recognize AstraZeneca as an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Even if the Biden Administration allows the reopening of the borders, the CDC's non-recognition of AstraZeneca will be a major barrier to transatlantic travel between the UK and the US.

WTTC, which represents the global private travel and tourism sector, says the United States will effectively remain out of reach for the majority of Britons, and many millions more around the world, who are vaccinated with the drug AstraZeneca. 

AstraZeneca has the largest global reach of all current vaccines and has currently been administered in 176 countries and territories, highlighting the importance of its approval in the US.

WTTC says the CDC's non-recognition will continue to seriously depress consumer demand and prevent any significant revival of transatlantic travel from the UK to the US.

It will also continue the severe knock-on effects across the travel and tourism sector on both sides of the Atlantic.

US airline JetBlue recently launched its first transatlantic flights from New York to London, while Aer Lingus, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines will add new routes or additional capacity to meet growing demand from the US to the UK.

According to travel and data analytics expert Cirium, flights between the UK and the US scheduled for the last week of August have plummeted 73% compared to the same period in 2019, before the pandemic. 

The total of available seats during this period has collapsed from a peak of 287,000 in 2019 to just 78,000 in 2021.

Virginia Messina, Senior Vice President of the WTTC, said: “It is crucial that the US authorities step forward to formally approve the AstraZeneca vaccine on an urgent basis to enable cross-border mobility and the return of transatlantic travel between the UK and US".

“Unless I give it the go-ahead, the United States will effectively remain closed to the vast majority of UK visitors and the many millions of people around the world who receive a double injection with the AstraZeneca vaccine".

“This will leave airlines, cruise ships, tour operators, hotels and the entire travel and tourism infrastructure, which is dependent on transatlantic travel, in major trouble for the foreseeable future".

"Neither the US nor the UK economy can afford this 'vaccine vacuum' to continue for another day, and with each passing day, and transatlantic travel continues to be off limits, the travel industry and tourism sinks more in the red ".

WTTC cautions that the current CDC approval process could take months to give AstraZeneca the go-ahead. 

He also fears that if the United States adopted a policy that only approved vaccines from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this would prevent millions of travelers from visiting the United States, the third most popular destination for travelers in the world. 

This same week, New York City included AstraZeneca on its list of vaccines that would be accepted as proof of inoculation to enter many closed places.

The WTTC hopes that other US states will follow New York's lead and urges the federal government to include all vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the FDA.

Additionally, the WTTC has become increasingly concerned that more layers of complexity around vaccine requirements are increasing barriers to mobility and cross-border travel, and Austria recently announced a 270-day expiration date for the certificate. of COVID-19 vaccine.

The world tourism body believes such a move could significantly delay the recovery of the country's travel and tourism sector, deterring travelers from visiting and causing further damage to the Austrian economy.

The WTTC recently warned that the restart of international travel could be seriously delayed without global reciprocal recognition of all approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccine inequality could become a growing barrier to international mobility and continue to cause damage to economies around the world.

The WTTC has also recently lobbied the UK government to bear the cost of hugely expensive and unnecessary PCR tests for fully targeted citizens, which continues to deter British from traveling.

WTTC has helped spearhead the coordinated international response to the impact of the pandemic on the global travel and tourism sector, which has so far cost 62 million jobs in the sector and suffered a loss of nearly US $ 4.3 trillion.


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