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18 Dec, 2020 14:05

Compulsory Covid vaccination for travel would ‘kill’ sector, claims head of major tourism lobby

Compulsory Covid vaccination for travel would ‘kill’ sector, claims head of major tourism lobby

Making Covid-19 jabs mandatory for international passengers would spell disaster for the travel industry, the head of a leading tourism lobby has warned, as airlines mull the introduction of coronavirus ‘passports.’

Some governments and airline companies have already signaled that they believe international travel will only return to pre-pandemic levels once vaccination against the virus is mandatory, but Gloria Guevara, leader of the World Travel and Tourism Council, sees things differently. 

Speaking at an event organized by a the Common Trust Network, a Swiss non-profit backed by the World Economic Forum that is developing a digital platform used to certify Covid-19 test results to prevent potential forgeries, Guevara said that the already-hurting travel industry wouldn’t survive if passengers were forced to take the jab.

I don’t think governments will require vaccination next year for travel. If they do that they will kill their sector.

She argued that at-risk groups such as the elderly would likely be “the last people who will travel,” even though they are first in line to receive the vaccine. Instead of requiring vaccination, rules should be strengthened requiring Covid-19 testing before departure, Guevara said. Currently no country or airline requires travelers to be inoculated against coronavirus before entry.

According to the lobbyist, the airline and tourism industries have taken a $3.8 trillion hit globally as a result of the health crisis. 

But how the travel sector can bounce back remains an open question. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a lobby group that represents airlines worldwide, is rolling out a digital Covid-19 ‘passport’ that would contain test results together with proof of vaccination. British Airways parent IAG SA will take part in a test program using the app by the end of the year, with the digital ID expected to be available on Apple and Android devices in the first months of 2021.

Meanwhile, the CEOs of several airlines have already stated that they believe international passengers should be required to be vaccinated before going abroad. AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes said earlier this month that he believes people traveling to Asian nations will be asked to take the jab before entry. 

His comments echo opinions from Cebu Pacific President and CEO Lance Gokongwei, and  Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, who both have said that mandatory Covd-19 vaccines will likely be necessary to restore international travel. 

Plans to introduce “immunity” passports and other forms of ID designed to show the holder is healthy have raised concerns among those who say the pandemic could be used to force through greater government control over life without proper democratic oversight. UK-based human rights group Privacy International warned in a new report that immunity passports could evolve into “a global identity document” that could be used to regulate nearly all aspects of life.

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