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How The COVID-19 Vaccine Will Impact International Travel In 2021

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Whether we like it or not, the COVID-19 vaccine is right around the corner and it's going to have a big impact on the way we travel in 2021. 

We've been following travel in the COVID-19 world since the very beginning. From the time countries first started shutting down, to the reopening of nations around the world.

Traveling right now is just about as hard as its going to get. Everyone is ‘waiting' for the vaccine to solve all our travel problems but let me tell you this right now. 

It won't. 

International travel is going to continue to be complicated right through 2021. 

Travelers have faced constant flight cancelations and travel bans during COVID-19
Travelers have faced constant flight cancelations and travel bans during COVID-19

Countries started reopening their borders just over 3 months ago with the first being Mexico to welcome all countries with no COVID-19 entry requirements.

At first, travel in a COVID-19 world appeared like it was going to be easy but we quickly learned that was the furthest thing from the truth. 

From invasive PCR swab tests, permitted country lists that change weekly and 14 day quarantines, travelers are completely overwhelmed with just the thought of going on vacation abroad. 

Many travelers have said they are waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine that is going to magically eliminate all these entry requirements and bring travel back to normal. 

Maybe one day it will, but it definitely wont be in 2021

Travelers check into a hotel during COVID-19

Why The COVID-19 Vaccine Won't Eliminate Entry Requirements…Yet

If a vaccine does become available, vaccinating over 7 billion people is going to take time and there are strong indicators a large amount of the population won't even be willing to get it. 

According to a recent NBC survey, less than half of Americans said they will get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Traveler grabs her luggage wearing a mask in the international terminal of the airport

That being said, nations will not take the blanket approach of making a proof of vaccination record (POVR) the only way to enter the country. For example, with the U.S. tourism market being one of the largest in the world, developing countries wont be willing to eliminate half of Americans from being able to visit.

Countries that already have strict COVID-19 entry requirements in place will just add a POVR as another way to enter the country rather than eliminate other entry requirements such as PCR swab tests and quarantines. 

Nations are going to need tourism dollars more than ever and making a POVR the only way to enter a country would further hurt already devastated tourism based economies. 

Doctor performs COVID-19 health screening at international arrivals gate
Doctor performs COVID-19 health screening at international arrivals gate

Rich countries have already secured hundreds of millions of doses of a potential vaccines from pharmaceutical companies.

This could mean countries like the Australia, Canada, UK and the United States could begin vaccinating their population in 2021 but again, that will take time. With so many people not willing to get the vaccine at all, travel is still going to be very disrupted right through 2021. 

Warning sign at international airport for Coronavirus restrictions

Wealthy nations could enforce a POVR as the only permitted entry requirement for tourism, however this is highly unlikely until a vaccine is widely available to the general public. 

For 2021 multiple types of COVID-19 entry requirements are here to stay and they are going to be constantly changing throughout the year.

Travel isn't about to get any easier and it could get even more confusing than it is now. 

A group of tourists with face masks near the St. Peter's Square, Rome, Italy
A group of tourists with face masks near the St. Peter's Square, Rome, Italy

The vaccine could make it easier for some travelers by late 2021 as more countries adopt a POVR as a permitted replacement for a COVID-19 PCR test or quarantines. 

To get the most of the world population vaccinated and have a globally recognized proof of vaccination record (POVR) in place is highly unlikely in 2021. 

Traveler wearing a mask in Bali after border closure
Traveler wearing a mask in Bali after border closure

Whether its right or wrong, some countries can see that travelers are frustrated and are reopening their borders with little or no COVID-19 entry requirements. 

In a recent move, the Dominican Republic removed their mandatory PCR swab test requirement. In place they will randomly select travelers for a new COVID-19 ‘breath test'.

One would think that easy COVID-19 entry requirements would scare travelers away due to the possibility of a higher chance of infection.

Proof is in the numbers that hasn't been the case. Cancun experienced over 70,000 visitors in its first 30 days after reopening for tourism with no testing or quarantines.  

Tourist wearing a mask takes a picture in Times Square during COVID-19
Tourist wearing a mask takes a picture in Times Square during COVID-19

One thing's for sure. Those that love to travel will continue to do so with or without a vaccination. 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Read More: 

Countries Open For American Tourists

Countries Open For Canadian Tourists

Travel Insurance That Covers COVID-19

Countries Reopening For Tourism: Complete List

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Christopher Erskine

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

I found the main point repeated too often. We know it's not going to get a lot better overnight. What about a little historical perspective? There was a time when people needed to get their "shots" before traveling to certain places. It was absolutely normal to do that and they did it. Why not now? It is unfortunate that some people want to believe it's all a hoax perpetrated by powerbrokers behind the scenes. I want to be first in line for a vaccination that will protect me when I travel abroad in conjunction with other simple personal/public hygiene measures like mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, and avoiding crowds.


Tuesday 10th of November 2020

Very negative article right now you cannot enter any Asian country unless you quarantine 14 days. at least with with a vaccine it could be possible

Caleb Anderson

Sunday 25th of October 2020

This article assumes that all countries will maintain strict requirements despite a vaccine providing immunity and preventing spread. Many countries, even ones with strict entry requirements like New Zealand or Taiwan, will desperately want tourism dollars. Obviously they have (rightfully) prioritized their own citizens' health, though I don't see them keeping the borders closed to those who have received a vaccine since the risk from that person will be very low. What I imagine happening is having different sets of requirements rather than simply adding them. For example, a traveler without a vaccine may still be subject to a COVID test and quarantine period, while the traveler with one will be allowed in like normal. Strict countries may just outright require a vaccine, though I just don't see countries remaining closed even though vaccinated travelers will be safe.

I do agree that overall international travel will remain complicated and limited next year. Here in the U.S. we have spent tens of billions of dollars and our current timeframe is widespread vaccinations by April. Other wealthy countries like Canada or those in the E.U. may have similar timelines, though the vaccines require storage at extremely cold temperatures, which complicates a global vaccination effort. Basically I see international travel being open to wealthy travelers willing to get a vaccine, but complicated or closed to poorer travelers or those unwilling to get a vaccine.

Laurie M

Tuesday 20th of October 2020

The tone of this article comes across as creepy and dismissive of the larger issues at hand. I've managed to travel internationally during this plandemic without testing (when purportedly required) and mostly muzzle-free, expecting this whole vaccine mandate for travel to happen eventually. Travel, one more way for our governments to control us! No thank you to forced vaccinations, I simply won't travel; honestly, I'd rather live under a rock until I die instead of inject myself with who knows what and surround myself with braindead, masked zombies packed on an overpriced flight to some place only to be refused entry by border bullies.


Friday 9th of October 2020

proof of vaccination will kill tourism , no way intelligent countries will do this