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A year of uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 restrictions has hit the tourism industry hard, with flight cancellations and airline bankruptcies becoming commonplace. However, with the proposal of vaccine passports and vaccine tourism being discussed worldwide, could this be what the travel industry needed to bring it back to life?
In recent weeks, the number of visitors travelling to U.S. states such as Texas, Louisiana and Arizona has soared since the announcement that non-residents can legally receive a Covid-19 vaccine. These were the first American states to announce the move to allow tourists to get the vaccine.
Since around March, wealthy Latin Americans, particularly from Mexico due to its proximity to the Southern U.S. states, have been travelling to cities across Texas in search of the vaccine, to beat the waiting time in their home countries.
USA Today spoke of shuttle buses taking tourists directly from the airport to vaccination sites. Many are willing to take the two trips needed for both shots of the vaccine in order to beat the line at home, to ensure they are protected from the virus.
Now New York is jumping on board the tourist vaccine bandwagon, going further than the Southern states by offering visitors to the city the one shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which will be available at some of New York’s most popular sites.
On May 6th, the City Of New York twitter announced “Welcome to New York, your vaccine is waiting for you! We'll administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at iconic sites across our city. With State authorization, we can get vaccines to tourists and make sure they have a built in souvenir to bring home with them. Let's get it done!” in an attempt to attract tourists back to the city after a year of lockdowns and restrictions.
However, the U.S. is not the only country to offer this product to tourists. In April, the Maldives announced it would soon be offering vaccinations to tourists upon arrival as part of a three-pronged initiative, which aims to revitalise the small archipelago’s tourism industry. The country’s “3V” strategy aims to encourage the idea of “visit, vaccinate, and vacation”.
In addition, the Romanian government is offering tourists free vaccinations at Romania’s famous Bran Castle, known for being the home of Dracula, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May. Visitors will be given the Pfizer-BioNTech jab without an appointment should they so wish, also gaining free entry to the castle. Currently this is only available to Romanians, but it opens up potential possibilities for major tourist sites around the world to attract visitors back.
Many countries are now discussing the possibility of a vaccine passport, a document proving you’ve had one of the approved vaccines, as being a prerequisite for international travel, meaning schemes like these could become increasingly popular.
The number of tourists crossing international borders is expected to rise in the summer following optimistic vaccination efforts across several countries. Last week, the European Union announced plans to open its borders to vaccinated tourists in the summer months.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stated, “We propose to welcome again vaccinated visitors & those from countries with a good health situation.”
The news of increased travel thanks to the offering of vaccines around the world comes as good news for both the travel industry as well as the oil and gas industry whose demand levels were hit hard by the steep drop in travel in 2020. The demand for jet fuel and related products is likely to increase hand-in-hand with travel demand, giving hope to both industries.
It seems that the combination of vaccine passports and the ability to access the vaccine early by visiting other countries or tourist sites could mean a sharp rise in travel over the coming months, with a positive knock-on effect across several other industries.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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Felicity Bradstock is a freelance writer specialising in Energy and Finance. She has a Master’s in International Development from the University of Birmingham, UK.