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Travelers around the world have received a boost from the news that two COVID-19 vaccines with over 90% effectiveness rates are in the final stages of development.

The news comes as a welcome ray of light for those seeking to travel abroad, in a year which has otherwise been clouded by the collapse of overseas tourism due to travel restrictions and economic shutdowns worldwide. The vaccines provide some hope that things may begin to return to normal in 2021, although several potential stumbling blocks still stand in the way.

travelers wearing masks airport

Vaccine Trials Advancing Rapidly

On November 9 Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their vaccine under development had been found to be 90% effective in preventing infection with COVID-19 during a trial of 43,538 participants, with no serious adverse effects observed. This was followed by the news on November 16 that analysis of a vaccine being tested by Moderna showed a 94.5% effectiveness rate.

These announcements represent a major step towards the roll-out of a successful vaccine for the virus, with safety trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine expected to be completed in the third week of November. This will pave the way for the companies to submit a request for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – allowing the vaccine to begin distribution. Manufacturing of both the vaccines has already begun in earnest and the companies expect to produce over 1bn doses of each by 2021.

covid19 vaccine vials

Light At The End Of The Tunnel For International Tourism

It is hoped that the vaccines will offer a lifeline to the struggling tourism industry worldwide by allowing travellers who have received it to take vacations overseas. One proposal under consideration by several countries would be to require tourists to obtain an international certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis (ICVP) to prove that they had been inoculated against the virus before travelling. 

The ICVP is already mandatory for travel to some countries which require tourists to be vaccinated against yellow fever – so such a system would be relatively easy to roll out for COVID-19. Most travellers would consider this extra red tape a small price to pay to enable them to get back out into the world.

tourist in time square new york during covid

The news has already lifted airline and cruise company share prices as investors anticipate an increase in bookings, with travelers desperate to return to overseas adventures. Countries reliant on the income provided by tourists, including many of the Caribbean islands, will also be breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect of travellers returning to their shores once again.

Bahamas Open For American Tourists

Pandemic To Change Traveling Experience For Good

This newfound optimism must be met with a note of caution, however, as several barriers remain in the way of a return to normal international travel.

 In particular, priority for the vaccine is likely to be given to vulnerable populations around the world, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, with travelers expected to be low on the list.

Elderly couple masks

While it is hoped that the vaccines will be released in December 2020, and production will be ramped up significantly, it is not likely to be widely available for travelers for several months. The availability of the vaccine will also vary by location – with some countries having larger stockpiles and more advanced production capabilities. So far, the U.S. and the E.U. have secured the most vaccine orders, with over 200mn doses each.

Aside from the potential issues with the vaccine, the tourism industry has been forever changed by the pandemic and travelers must prepare themselves for different experiences to what they may have been used to before the virus. New procedures and travel documents, such as the ICVP, are likely to be enforced by airlines, tour operators and immigration services. 

Extended travel or multi-destination trips are also likely to become less popular, at least in the short term, as different countries impose different entry requirements. Measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing are likely to remain mandatory for at least the next year as the vaccines continue to be delivered, changing the types of activities and entertainment that can be enjoyed by tourists.

masks tourists

In addition, the tourist industry worldwide has been decimated by the pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, resulting in higher prices and less freedom of choice for travelers. In particular, the damage to the aviation sector is likely to lead to elevated ticket prices and fewer flight options as airlines look to focus their limited resources on core routes.

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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

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