Until a few weeks ago, Australia and New Zealand had been the model of how to manage the COVID-19 outbreak. Strict border controls, swift action and health protocols meant both countries were able to open again after the initial outbreak, and a free travel corridor between the two resumed.
Then, as the rest of the world started to speed up vaccination attempts during lockdown, New Zealand and Australia had turned their attention to returning to normalcy. Unfortunately, as new strains of the virus begin to emerge including the latest Delta variant, the slower vaccination approach has caught up with them meaning some parts of Australia and New Zealand are facing another extended lockdown.
As the Australian government has suggested international borders will remain closed until mid 2022, with no clear timeline for re-opening, it seems like it’s blow after blow for Australian travel businesses
Bruce Poon-Tip, founder of G Adventures explained at Travel DAZE 2021 the impact for business owners and the further delays this could cause to the revival of travel, “We’ve all downsized and downscaled in those regions, and now we have to scale back up, and we can’t do that when we don’t have a clear direction from government about what the path is to opening."
But, at the time where tourism revenue in Australia is predicted to decrease by 38%, three things are becoming clear. Firstly, navigating a modern-day pandemic is not an easy option for governments, families, and businesses alike. Secondly governments are no longer aiming for a COVID-zero approach, instead trying to create a society that can live with COVID. Lastly, the latest vaccination efforts could be the light at the end of the tunnel for global travel.
Vaccine Tourism Reviving Travel
Vaccinations and travelling have gone hand-in-hand for years to protect both travellers and the locations they visit. In fact, many countries still require vaccine certificates as well as updated jabs for diseases like yellow fever, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and typhoid. It seems so far that by adding COVID-19 vaccinations to the list, travel can start to resume.
Data from Sabre also shows that even though many booking metrics are still lower than in 2019, “As COVID-19 vaccines continued to be administered we saw continued sequential improvement in our key volume metrics in May 2021 versus April and the first quarter of 2021.”
We are seeing this in action in
countries whose vaccination rollouts are much further along and are able to
introduce domestic tours, activities and attractions as well as the beginning
of international travel, for example:
- Israel - The country has been praised for its efficient vaccination program, surpassing every nation in the highest administered doses per capita. Because of this, restrictions were lifted by February this year. By mid-June, the majority of its population had received their second dose. Even with the Delta variant, activities and travel are open, but mask wearing is still necessary.
- The U.S. - Most notably, New York City has seen all restrictions lifted and a $30 million global tourism recovery campaign is underway. Starting with domestic tours, activities and attractions, eventually building to encourage international travel as other countries lift the ban. In other parts of the U.S., President Biden’s vaccination goals of 160 million fully vaccinated Americans and 70% of adults getting at least one dose haven’t been achieved yet. But, the CDC has lowered restrictions on fully vaccinated individuals. It allows extra concessions for those who have had both vaccinations to provide a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy. This includes attending sports events, something that drives both local and international tourism.
- The UK - With the UK’s advanced stages of its vaccination program, some international travel is being permitted already to approved locations with fewer breakouts, particularly in neighbouring Europe. However, more impressively they have started to reintroduce domestic events ahead of the controversial ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19th. Not only were full crowds allowed at the quarterfinals of renowned tennis competition Wimbledon, but the Euro 2020 finals between England and Italy held at Wembley stadium had over 60,000 fans in attendance with no masks or social distancing required so long as fans could provide a negative COVID test.
Will Vaccinations Speed-up International Travel Recovery?
Following the current trends from around the world, for Australia it looks like the economy as well as global tourism will start to open up alongside vaccine rollouts. Travel requirements imposed could speed this up like the use of vaccine passports, COVID-19 testing, and on-site health checks.
Fully vaccinated individuals are also likely to start having more freedoms, reducing the need to test and quarantine upon arrival which makes it more convenient and less time-consuming or costly for travellers. When this comes into effect, we should start to see much more of a demand in international bookings and the true revival of global travel. News that the travel industry and and travellers can’t wait to see.