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New Vaccines Will Not Solve Travel Restrictions In 2021

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For the past year, the pandemic has literally changed almost every facet of travel. Now many countries and travelers are claiming that the new COVID-19 vaccines are going to be the magical cure for international travel restrictions in 2021. 

While its still unknown how the tourism industry will evolve in 2021, countries that rush to enact mandatory vaccine entry requirements could in fact see their tourism numbers be slower to recover to pre-pandemic levels. 

The COVID-19 vaccines will not bring an end to travel restrictions in 2021 and could cause further economic and social turmoil in the already shattered tourism industry.

Tourists women masks travel selfie at a cathedral

The Problems With Vaccine Entry Requirements 

Countries that enact a COVID-19 vaccine entry requirement too early and make it the only way to enter the country could face multiple hurdles in 2021. 

United States

The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be granted emergency use in countries such as the U.S. by the middle of December. The first people to get the vaccine are expected to be front line workers but even the U.S. government is realistic that it will take until at least May for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated

female train mask travel

There is one big problem with this theory. In a recent poll by Gallup, only 58% of Americans are willing to get the vaccine

For countries that depend on U.S. tourists, are they willing to turn away over 40% of U.S. travelers by enacting a ‘vaccine only' entry requirement? 


The wealthy and developed nation of Canada only expects half of its population to be vaccinated by September of 2021. 

“Canadians can expect that if all goes well, to have more than half of us vaccinated by next September,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

couple mask airplane selfie

Different Vaccines

Having a mandatory vaccine entry requirement to protect a country from virus transmission may be great in theory but it's not that easy.

There are going to be multiple versions of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by different pharmaceutical companies, in different countries, with varying safety standards and effectiveness rates. Who decides which vaccines are good enough and how will nations protect against what could be a new ‘black market' of vaccine certificates?

One solution proposed by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) was a COVID-19 ‘Travel Pass’, a tool which fundamentally serves as a COVID passport in the future of travel regulations and protocols.

This system all depends on widespread adoption by international countries, and looking at the difference in how each country has handled the pandemic thus far, this ‘travel pass' is still highly unlikely to be adopted worldwide. 

family travel masks europe

Evolving COVID-19 Virus

Two trial vaccines are showing great promise and expected to be approved by the middle of December. 

On November 9 Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their vaccine was found to be 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 with no serious adverse effects. This was followed by the news on November 16 that a vaccine being tested by Moderna showed a 94.5% effectiveness rate.

While this is excellent news for future of international tourism, scientists are still unsure if the vaccine will be effective on mutations of the COVID-19 virus. 

On November 7th, the United Kingdom banned travelers coming from Denmark after a mutated strain of the Coronavirus which causes COVID-19 transferred from minks to humans.

females beach masks

Why Some Wealthy Nations Could See Their Tourism Suffer

Australia is setting itself up for a tourism industry that may not ever fully recover. 

Australia has already set dangerous precedents that are unheard of in the developed democratic world. With citizens not allowed to leave the country, making it illegal to form protests, an airline claiming they will only allow vaccinated passengers and the government has suggested it will only allow travelers who have been vaccinated to enter the country. 

Qantas Airlines chief executive, Alan Joyce said that he expected other airlines around the world to follow suit. 

They haven't yet.

females shopping traveling in masks

While the laws may have saved lives and protected the country from widespread infection, it has cost Australians their freedom of movement. Australia was still unable to prevent COVID-19 completely confirming over 27,885 cases

Comparatively the same or a better result could have come from less restrictive measures such as Thailand which has now reopened for tourism and has only confirmed 3966 cases thus far. 

Thailand is using a combination of multiple PCR tests and mandatory quarantine for travelers wishing to enter the kingdom. While it's not easy to get in, at least travelers have a choice to go. Travelers still want to feel welcome in the places they visit and shutting them out completely isn't easily forgotten. 

Thailand has been praised around the world for its ability to control the virus.

girlfriends travel masks train

Will Travelers Visit Countries That Require A Vaccine For Entry?

In a recent poll by Travel Off Path of 245 frequent international travelers, only 57.6% said they would be willing to visit a country that required a COVID-19 vaccine for entry.  

29.8% of travelers said they would choose another destination and 12.6% were still undecided. 

Although there is still a large number of travelers not willing to get the vaccine, these numbers could change once it's proven safe among a large population. 

couple backpack masks travel

What Country Is Leading The World In Tourism During The Pandemic?

All eyes are on Mexico and have been since June when most tourist hotspots in the country started welcoming back travelers.

According to CEIC Data, Mexico has already recovered 60.3% of its international tourists compared to 2019. In the middle of a worldwide pandemic the number of tourists visiting Mexico is shocking when compared to the majority of countries that haven't even recovered 10%.

Mexico has maintained some of the easiest COVID-19 entry requirements in the world with no mandatory quarantines or testing. While many believed this strategy would scare away tourists due to high infection rates, Mexico has flourished and become the go to destination for travelers around the world. 

Although Mexico has seen high infection rates confirming over 1 million cases of COVID-19 with 104,873 deaths, it hasn't stopped tourists from arriving to the country by the millions. 

The tourist hotspot of Cancun alone registered over 1 million tourists in September of this year. The Cancun International airport just recently set a new record on November 6 and 7th recording over 300 flight arrivals each day which was the highest since the city reopened for tourists

couple luggage masks

What Is The Vaccine Entry Requirement Solution?

Governments have one chance to get this right and their decision could impact their tourism industry for years to come. 

Travel Off Path has been following travel during COVID-19 since the very beginning and one thing's for sure. Travelers want to feel welcome and not have to jump through multiple hoops to get into a country. For those who choose to travel during these unprecedented times, the fear of arriving in a country and not getting in is outweighing the fear of the actual virus.

male traveler mask luggage

Countries should have an option for travelers that have received the COVID-19 vaccine to be granted entry without testing or quarantines. 

But at the same time, countries should not single out and prevent travelers who aren't willing to get a vaccine from entering. Other great options for strict countries could include test upon arrival, quarantine for 5 days and another test to be released from quarantine.

For example the U.K. has enacted a test to release program. All travelers are required to quarantine for 14 days but travelers can opt to take a COVID-19 PCR test on the 5th day and be released.  

tourist woman mask luggage

Whatever happens, COVID-19 entry requirements are here to stay in 2021 and the vaccines are about to make things even more confusing for international travel. 

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories


Monday 30th of November 2020

Don't worry Ira, I cannot be offended. But the Covid doomsayers will have to accept that life goes on. Air travel continues, many countries are open and many will continue to open in 2021. Happy days will be here again, no matter how badly some people thirst for negativity!


Sunday 29th of November 2020

I don't want to start a war in the comments of this wonderful travel blog, but we are all free to do what we want. Multiple vaccines have been found safe and effective. Some of us (not you, as is your choice) will happily inject ourselves with the Covid-19 vaccine and freely travel the world. Others will choose not to, which isn't such a bad thing. The airport lounges won't be as crowded and the Starbucks line will be shorter!


Sunday 29th of November 2020

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I am starting to think people love the misery. Good thing you people weren't around when World War 2 ended. Imagine the comments: "Yeah, but they say Hitler's not really dead. The Japanese Empire could rebuild and then we'll all be dead. Doom and gloom! What's wrong with a little optimism?


Monday 30th of November 2020

Brian, it's called being realistic, not doom and gloom. Too many people think that the vaccine is a magic silver bullet. It's not a Hollywood movie where you shoot the mothership and all our troubles are gone in a blink or an eye, people coming out of their homes looking up to the rainbow painted sky.

I'm not here to start an argument as well, sorry if this offends you, just my two cents :)


Sunday 29th of November 2020

I wouldn't classify having to inject yourself with an unproven vaccine that could potentially harm you in the long term just to travel, as "optimism"

Ironic how for the past year the world is prepared to destroy itself to avoid getting this virus at all cost. Yet now everyone can barely wait to inject themselves with the same virus (albeit a weakened version)


Sunday 29th of November 2020

Couldn't agree more with this article. Just adding my 2 cents...if airlines and countries only welcome vaccinated people, we may end up with not enough people that are eligible to travel.

There's a physical limit in the production and distribution of the vaccine. It would take months to achieve enough of a number of vaccinated people that are allowed to travel. Airlines may well be flying empty planes in the beginning months.

And if it only gives you a couple of months of immunity, then there's a never ending cycle of people needed to be vaccinated.


Sunday 29th of November 2020

Thanks Trevor. LOVE the site. I am using this to travel around Latin America and plan my travel for 2021. This sounds like a commercial, but no other site is as up to date on entry requirements as yours. THANK YOU!

Trevor Kucheran

Sunday 29th of November 2020

Thanks Bryan we appreciate you being a loyal reader!