Calls for International Travel to Reopen, Cannot Wait for Vaccines

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The entire cruise industry is eagerly awaiting full-scale vaccinations worldwide. As Norwegian Cruise Line President and CEO Frank Del Rio said this week, the expectation is that a vaccine passport will be needed for international travel and cruises to take place. This would also mean that a return to normal could be many months away.

The WTTC, which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, along with Airports Council International (ACI), the World Economic Forum (WEF), and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), says the world cannot wait for the arrival and full rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

Proven Processes Should Be Sufficient

In a press release released December 14th, the trade organizations make it clear that the processes and health protocols in place now should be enough for international travel to resume fully. Without international travel, it will be extremely difficult for the cruise industry to regain enough momentum towards a recovery.

The organizations feel that although the vaccine will be paramount for worldwide economic recovery, it should not be a requirement for international travel to resume. This would only delay a revival of the global travel industry, in which the cruise industry plays a significant role. Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said the following:

“Safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines will be critical to combatting COVID-19 and restoring confidence for people to interact with one another. However, it will take considerable time to vaccinate the world, and the vaccines to affect the global population significantly, and the global Travel & Tourism sector cannot wait.”

“Vaccination must not be a requirement to travel but should co-exist with testing regimes and be considered as a progressive enhancement to already safe travel.”

The fact that travel corridors between London Heathrow and Dubai International Airport have already been opened with appropriate testing and hygiene protocols demonstrates international travel can already take place at minimal and acceptable risk.

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Four Measures That Would Enable International Travel

The four measures identified by WTTC and its international partners are as follows:

  1. Globally recognized testing regime on departure – Everyone should be tested before flying. A quick and easy way to achieve this could be found in a new and inexpensive rapid-test.
  2. Standard health and hygiene protocols – Heightened health and hygiene protocols, such as the WTTC Safe Travels Protocols, can ensure the risk of transmission during traveling is lower than in the community at large.
  3. Risk management regime – All governments should adopt a clear risk management policy; the current risk avoidance approach, reflected in 14-day quarantines, is crushing both business and leisure travel.
  4. Travel passes – Vaccines can work alongside digital travel passes. A person would be either tested or vaccinated and, as such, be fit to travel. A globally recognized pass would do away with restrictive and unnecessary travel barriers and counterproductive quarantines.

Certainly, the adaptation of the WTTC Safe travel protocols will help governments and passengers regain trust in the cruise industry. The protocols and measures that have been implemented by the cruise industry already surpass the measures suggested by the WTTC.

A certification which puts the cruise industry on the same standard as airlines and the shoreside hospitality industry would only help with this.

Also Read: Could a Vaccine Be Required Before Taking a Cruise?

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What would a vaccine passport mean for the cruise industry?

A requirement from governments to only allow travel while immunized for COVID-19 could be disastrous for the cruise industry. It could be a considerable period before vaccines become available widespread; this is time the cruise lines do not have.

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The Cruise industry has always been reliant on international travel. Cruises to far-away places, world cruises, cruises around South America, or even voyages to the North Pole, Antarctica, or Alaska would no longer be possible.

A resumption of cruises in the United States is still more than two months away. And although it would undoubtedly boost the industry, it will do little to lift the burden on the entire cruise industry, the many companies that depend on cruise ships worldwide, and the families that depend on income from the ships if international travel is not fully resumed.

The proposed plans from the WTTC are therefore not only hopeful thinking, they are a vital part for a recovery of the cruise industry.

Photo Credit: Stefan Lambauer / Shutterstock.com

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