(CNN) – There’s hope: The summer holidays abroad can make a big difference this year.
The number of people fleeing their country will increase from late spring onwards and multiply in the middle of the year, travel industry experts predict, as more and more vaccines and risk-based safety measures are deployed and the number of coronavirus cases worldwide is starting to decrease again.
I’m even convinced that from May 1st we’ll all be living in a much better world, says Paul Charles, founder and CEO of London-based travel agency The PC Agency.
Vaccines and trials are the way forward according to Charles and other industry experts, but perhaps just as urgent is the need for more coherence and coordination at the international level.
Without a coordinated global approach, it is very difficult for the industry to move forward, especially when the rules of the game change almost daily, said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, CEO of Airports Council International (ACI), the global trade organization representing airports around the world.
Exit control is an element of safe travel during a pandemic.
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More needs to be done to develop testing protocols that allow travellers to bypass quarantine and to find ways to share vaccination and testing information transparently and safely across borders.
Sovereign nations still decide for themselves what is best for their health and their economy, but progress has been made in trying to give countries a more global vision of the enormous economic power in circulation.
An alphabetical soup of agencies, organisations and companies (UNWTO, ICAO, WTTC, airlines, etc.) have worked together to develop numerous global guidelines and recommendations to make travel safer, easier and less confusing for a world of consumers seeking change.
According to the ACI of Oliveira, the summer recovery could mean that international air traffic in most countries reaches 50 to 60% of previous levels.
These are some of the challenges faced by travellers, and the sector will have to address them as the number of journeys increases:
Mandatory… …and change… Quarantine requirements essentially kill the process of restarting the industry, the Oliveira said.
Speaking with CNN Travel, Mr. de Oliveira was in Montreal on the twelfth day of a 14-day quarantine after returning home from a business trip to the Dominican Republic, followed by a personal trip to Mexico. In the past seven months he has been quarantined four times and has spent 56 days at home without being allowed to leave.
This kind of time investment, as well as the confusion of requirements – both the outward and the return journey – is a strong disincentive for people who would otherwise be willing to travel. Safety is essential, but industry experts advocate a nuanced and layered approach.
Travellers who landed in a hotel in Melbourne, Australia, in December were forced to quarantine themselves on their return from overseas.
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To avoid quarantine, you need a testing mechanism, says Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public relations and policy for the U.S. National Non-profit Travel Association, which advocates a science-based, risk-based approach to reopening international travel, particularly lifting quarantine if you have the right testing protocol.
Although vaccines will be essential, Oliveira and others can say that the travel industry absolutely cannot afford to wait until the vaccines are fully deployed worldwide, making testing an important part of the equation for safe travel in the near future.
Ms. Barnes mentioned a two-stage testing system as a possible standard, 72 hours prior to departure and again upon arrival, and mentioned a pilot testing program in Hawaii – where a 10-day quarantine can be bypassed in most of the islands with a negative result – as an example of where non-quarantine testing has created a question.
Although U.S. Travel encourages people to be vaccinated and tested at sites that require quarantine, the association does not attempt to impose universal access requirements, Barnes said. We wouldn’t say you need a vaccine to travel.
She recognised the challenge of determining who is responsible for drawing up and implementing consistent protocols. The government doesn’t necessarily want that, she said, and I don’t know if the private sector should have that responsibility.
Yet countries and organisations around the world are making progress in coordinating common approaches, says Alessandra Priente, Regional Director for Europe at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a specialized agency of the United Nations.
The type of coordinated testing is already used in many cases, and the next step on a global scale is monitoring, says Priante, to make sure we can share a certain amount of data, because if we don’t share the data, we can’t really get all the information we need.
The tourism industry cannot afford to wait for the vaccines to spread all over the world.
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images.
vaccination … and proof.
Some of this information probably relates to vaccinations. The vaccination programme in the United Kingdom is well under way. Other countries have also made significant progress and the US programme is slowly gaining momentum.
The confusion for travellers may also increase as more people travel in the spring and additional requirements for negative tests and confirmation of vaccination take effect.
Australia, for example, has just announced that all passengers must submit a negative Covid PCR test and Qantas has proposed that all international passengers must submit a vaccination certificate shortly.
We need a coordinated global approach to detect and share information about vaccinations and tests accurately and safely, Mr. Oliveira said.
Current practices – the use of paper documents from unknown laboratories in languages that may not be known to those investigating them, or the jumble of unconnected databases around the world – are far from ideal.
Therefore, the ICA supports the use of health applications such as CommonPass, a tool that allows travelers to share lab results and immunization records without revealing other personal health information. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is also working on a digital passport platform.
Although vaccines are widely available, not everyone will take them, and researchers are investigating whether the virus can still be transmitted by people who have been vaccinated. Disguise, social remoteness, hygiene and other layers of safety will long be part of everyday life – and travel.
Travel bubbles – such as the proposed bilateral corridor between New Zealand and Australia – are among the measures specifically designed to restore some international travel.
Jorge Fernandez/LightRocket/Getty Images
International travel will not take place overnight.
Even in anticipation of declining coronavirus cases and greater global coordination around safer and less confusing cross-border travel, destinations and companies are increasingly retaining their own interim solutions.
Delta Air Lines is testing some Covid-tested flights to the Netherlands that do not require quarantine. For these flights a combination of standard PCR and rapid antigen tests are used for landing.
Dr. Oliveira believes that rapid antigen testing can help revive the industry. Although antigen tests are considered less accurate, they are also much faster and cheaper than molecular tests, which is a step in risk management.
Iceland and Hungary have adopted the concept of immunity passports, which allow access to persons already infected with covid 19 and who have been recovered.
Unfortunately, as in most cases in relation to Covid, these measures are subject to change.
Corridors can be useful if they are consistent, but again, there have been ups and downs, openings and closures in the short term, and that hasn’t helped consumers at all, said travel consultant Paul Charles.
In the end, travellers want to retreat safely to mingle and have fun with the rest of the world.
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Principal objective: Mixing with foreigners
The UNWTO Priyant hopes that the ups and downs will soon be balanced, because peace is not enough.
What I regret most is that all tourism is about trust in the unknown… the beauty of exploration, meeting someone you’ve never met, another culture, another nation, it’s all at stake because people tell us not to trust anyone, to cross the street, to wear a mask, not to mix, she said from her home in Madrid.
And while Priante and her colleagues take and continue to travel and work to address the global crisis threatening the livelihood of the industry, she wants more people to be able to travel safely.
We want to bring the spirit of tourism back into people’s hearts. Because tourism is about creating memories… and we want to get back to it, we want to be an industry of beautiful memories again.
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