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Will international travel return in 2021? What we know at the moment



(CNN) – There is hope: a summer vacation abroad can happen to a large extent this year.

Experts in the tourism industry predict that the number of people leaving their countries will creep in in late spring and increase by mid-year as vaccines and risk-based safety measures become more widespread. widely and urinary coronavirus worldwide begins to fall once again.
“In fact, I’m pretty sure that from May 1
st onwards … we’ll all be in a much better world,” said Paul Charles, founder and CEO of London-based travel consulting agency The PC Agency.

Vaccines and tests are the way forward, say Charles and other industry experts, but what is needed, perhaps just as desperately, is greater consistency and coordination across borders.

“When you don’t have a coordinated global approach, it’s very difficult for the industry to move forward, especially when the rules of the game change basically every day,” said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, CEO of International Airport Council International. (ACI), a global trade organization representing world airports.

Departure testing is one of the components to ensure safer travel during a pandemic.

Departure testing is one of the components to ensure safer travel during a pandemic.

Joseph Okpako / Getty images

There is still a lot of work to be done to iron out test protocols that would allow globetrothers to abandon quarantine and find ways to seamlessly and securely share vaccination and testing information across borders.

Sovereign states still decide what is best for them individually by looking at their own health and economies, but progress has been made in making countries look more globally at the enormous economic power of travel.

Alphabet soup from agencies, organizations and companies (UNWTO, ICAO, ACI, WTTC, airlines, etc.) have collaborated on a number of guidelines and global recommendations aimed at making travel safer, easier and less confusing for the world of hungry consumers. to change the scene.

ACI’s De Oliveira says the rebound in the summer could mean international air traffic, reaching 50% to 60% of previous levels in most countries.

Here are some of the obstacles that travelers need to overcome as travel increases:

Remove quarantines

Mandatory – and changing – quarantine requirements “basically kill the process of restarting the industry,” de Oliveira said.

Speaking to CNN Travel, de Oliveira was on the 12th day of a 14-day quarantine in Montreal after returning home from a business trip to the Dominican Republic, followed by a personal trip to Mexico. In the last seven months, he has been quarantined four times, spending 56 days at home without being able to leave.

This kind of investment over time, along with the confusion about requirements – both to go and go home – are great deterrents for people who would otherwise like to travel. Safety is essential, but those in the industry are advocating for a more nuanced, layered approach.

Travelers at a hotel in Melbourne, Australia, had to be quarantined in December after returning from abroad.

Travelers at a hotel in Melbourne, Australia, had to be quarantined in December after returning from abroad.

WILLIAM WEST / AFP / Getty Images

A testing mechanism is needed to avoid quarantine, said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at the U.S. National Non-Governmental Organization for Travel, which advocates a science-based, risk-based approach to opening up international travel. -especially considering removing quarantines if you have the correct testing protocol. ”

While vaccines will be crucial, Oliveira and others say the tourism industry can absolutely not afford to wait for it to increase while vaccinations are applied entirely worldwide, making testing an essential part of the equation for safer travel. in the short term.

Barnes cited a two-stage testing regime 72 hours before departure and again on arrival as one of the possible standards, citing a pilot test program in Hawaii – where a 10-day quarantine can be circumvented on most islands with negative test results – as an example of this is where quarantine testing has generated demand.

While US Travel will encourage people to get vaccinated and tested in places that require quarantine, the association is not looking for common access requirements, Barnes said. “We wouldn’t say you have to have a vaccine to travel.”

She acknowledges that determining who is responsible for creating and implementing consistent protocols is a challenge. “The government doesn’t necessarily want to,” she said, “and I don’t know that the private sector should bear that responsibility.”

Still, countries and organizations around the world are making progress in coordinating common approaches, said Alessandra Priante, regional director for Europe at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a specialized agency of the United Nations.

In many cases, a coordinated way of testing is already in place, and the next step at the global level is tracking, says Priante, “to make sure we can share a certain amount of data, because if we don’t share the data, then we really can’t to have all the information we have Must I have. “

The tourism industry cannot afford to wait for vaccines to be distributed worldwide to increase.

The tourism industry cannot afford to wait for vaccines to be distributed worldwide to increase.

Patrick T. Fallon / AFP / Getty Images

Vaccination … and proof

Some of this information is likely to relate to vaccinations. The UK vaccination program is ongoing. Other countries have also made significant progress, and the US agenda is slowly increasing.

Confusion among travelers may increase as more people start moving in the spring and additional requirements for negative tests and evidence of vaccination appear.

Australia, for example, has just announced that it will require negative PCR Covid tests for all travelers, and Qantas suggests that soon all international passengers will need to have a vaccination certificate.

We will need a harmonized global approach to recognizing and accurately and safely sharing vaccination and testing information, Oliveira said.

Current practices – involving printed paper documents from unknown laboratories in languages ​​that may be unknown to those inspecting them, or a tangle of unrelated databases around the world – are less than ideal.

That’s why ACI supports the use of health apps like CommonPass, a tool that will allow travelers to share lab results and vaccination records without disclosing other personal health information. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) also operates on the digital Travel Pass platform.

Even when vaccines become widely available, not everyone will accept them, and researchers are considering whether the virus can still be transmitted by vaccinated people. Masking, social distancing, remediation and other levels of safety will continue to be part of everyday life – and travel – for a long time to come.

Traveling balloons - such as the expected two-way corridor between New Zealand and Australia - are among the tailor-made measures aimed at resuming some international travel.

Traveling balloons – such as the expected two-way corridor between New Zealand and Australia – are among the tailor-made measures aimed at resuming some international travel.

Jorge Fernandez / LightRocket / Getty images

Measures in the meantime

A trouble-free international trip will not happen overnight.

As we wait for a decline in coronavirus cases and more global coordination around safer, less confusing cross-border travel, destinations and corporations are increasingly introducing their own temporary solutions.
Delta Air Lines is testing several quarantined flights to the Netherlands without quarantine. These flights use a combination of gold standard PCR testing with pre-boarding for rapid antigen testing.
Oliveira sees rapid antigen testing as a potential aid to the industry’s recovery. Although considered less accurate, antigen tests are also much faster and cheaper than molecular tests as a single layer of risk management.
Iceland and Hungary have adopted the concept of “immunity passports”, allowing people to enter who are already infected with Covid-19 and have recovered.

Unfortunately, like most things related to Covid, these measures are subject to change.

“Corridors can be useful if they are consistent, but again, they have been up and down, opening and closing in a short time, and that hasn’t helped consumers at all,” said Paul Charles, a consultant in the tourism industry.

Ultimately, travelers would like to return to safe mixing and blending with the rest of the world.

Ultimately, travelers would like to return to safe mixing and blending with the rest of the world.

ROBIN UTREHT / Stringer / Getty

The big goal: Mixing with strangers

UNWTO’s Priante hopes speeds and declines will catch up soon because the world is missing.

“What I regret the most is that all that tourism is about is trusting the unknown … the beauty of getting to know each other, meeting someone you have never met before from another culture, another nation. , it’s like being detained on a map, because people tell us “don’t trust anyone, cross the sidewalk, wear your mask, don’t mix,” she said from her home in Madrid.

And while Priante and her colleagues have taken all precautions and continued to travel and work to tackle the global crisis, which threatens livelihoods in the industry, she wants to see more people travel safely.

“We want to bring the spirit of tourism back to people’s hearts. Because tourism is about building memories … and we want to get back to that, we want to become an industry of beautiful memories again.”


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