The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has warned that the restart of international travel could be seriously delayed without worldwide reciprocal recognition of all approved COVID-19 vaccines. It claims vaccine inequality could become an increasing barrier to international mobility and continue to inflict damage upon economies around the world.
The WTTC has grown increasingly concerned that more layers of complexity around vaccine requirements are increasing barriers to mobility and cross-border travel, with Austria recently announcing a 270-day expiry date for a COVID-19 vaccine certificate. The WTTC believes such a move could significantly delay the recovery of the country’s tourism sector, deterring travellers from visiting.
Regular changes to vaccine requirements are widespread. The European Union suspended all non-essential travel for American visitors due to the spike in new COVID-19 infections in the USA. However, EU countries Croatia, Portugal and Ireland stepped away from the EU regulations announcing they would still welcome American tourists.
WTTC CEO Julia Simpson responded to the situation: “Protecting public health must remain the priority and WTTC strongly supports safety protocols to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, the EU’s recommendation to re-impose restrictions on U.S. travellers is a step backwards and will only slow down the recovery of the sector. With high vaccination levels in both the U.S. and the EU, we should be looking at opening up travel between these two major economies. We need a common set of rules that recognise global vaccines and remove the need to quarantine for people with a negative COVID result. The U.S. is a key source market for many EU countries such as France, Italy, Germany and Ireland. Rather than imposing further damaging travel restrictions, the EU should be encouraging countries to use its Digital COVID Certificate to safely restore international travel.”
The WTTC has also called upon the UK government to bring an end to the widely discredited travel traffic light system. The call comes after the latest update that saw just seven countries added to the green list, with Thailand, and Montenegro, added to the red list. WTTC says both consumers and tourism businesses have lost confidence in the system.
The WTTC believes that the USA’s non-recognition of the AstraZeneca vaccine remains a significant barrier to transatlantic travel between the UK and the U.S.
AstraZeneca has the largest global reach of all current vaccines and has currently been administered across 176 countries and territories, highlighting the importance of its approval in the U.S. The WTTC warns that the current CDC approval process could take months to give AstraZeneca the all-clear.