It is once again time to catch up on some recent stories about travel. There have been several developments – some good, some bad – pertaining to vaccines and tourism.
The Speedy Vaccination Award Goes to… Bhutan. Bhutan, a small country in the Himalayas between China and India managed to vaccinate 93% of its adult population in 16 days. Overall, 62% of Bhutan’s population of 800,000 have been vaccinated. This makes its vaccination roll-out much faster than Israel, United Kingdom and other countries known to be vaccinating people rapidly. The country’s success in rapidly vaccinating its public is attributed to its small population, and citizen volunteers who aided medical staff in speeding up vaccinations. Bhutan had only 37 doctors and 3,000 healthcare workers before the pandemic began.
Visit, Vaccine, and Vacation. Anyone who isn’t vaccinated because of limited supplies in their own country will soon have a new reason to visit the Maldives. The Maldives will soon offer visitors vaccinations on arrival. Maldives has also lifted testing requirements for vaccinated travelers . Maldives, an archipelago state in the Indian Ocean renowned for its tropical beaches and pristine waters, is heavily dependent on its tourism industry. Around 67% of its gross domestic product is derived directly and indirectly from the sector. At present, visitors to Maldives must provide a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and proof of hotel booking to gain entry. Quarantine will be exempted for all individuals travelling to an island where 60% of the population have completed two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine recognized by the World Health Organization. To date, around 53% of the island nation’s approximately 530,000 residents have received their first dose.
Malta Pays For Stays. Malta has set aside more than $4 million to pay travelers to stay at least two nights in hotels this summer, beginning June 2021. The amount Malta will pay depends on the type of hotel and the location. The higher the hotel rating, the higher the incentive. Guests can earn €100 (or about $119) per person for a 3-night stay at a 5-star hotel. Guests at a 4-star hotel can earn €75 (or about $89), and so on. The incentive will be matched by the hotel doubling the amount guests can receive. Guests staying on the smaller island of Gozo can receive an additional 10 percent. Malta plans to open on June 1 to anyone who can prove they have been fully vaccinated ten days before arrival.
Air traffic fell in February 2021. The International Air Transport Association reports that passenger traffic fell in February 2021, both compared with pre-COVID levels (February 2019) and compared to the immediate month prior (January 2021).
- Total demand for air travel in February 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 74.7% compared with February 2019. That was worse than the 72.2% decline recorded in January 2021 versus two years ago.
- International passenger demand in February was 88.7% below February 2019, a further drop from the 85.7% year-to-year decline recorded in January and the worst growth outcome since July 2020. Performance in all regions worsened compared with January 2021.
- Total domestic demand was down 51% versus pre-crisis (February 2019) levels. In January it was down 47.8% on the 2019 period. This largely was owing to weakness in China travel, driven by government requests that citizens stay at home during the Lunar New Year travel period.
Alaska To Offer Airport Vaccines. In the effort to restart tourism, Alaska announced that starting June 1, it will offer free vaccines at airports in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Ketchikan. Vaccine clinics will be located outside the security area. The vaccines will be featured in a national tourism marketing campaign. Unfortunately for Alaska’s tourist campaign, by the summer anyone in the U.S. who wants a vaccine should be able to get one without needing to travel to the last American frontier.
Thailand Covid-19 Plans Foiled Again. As previously reported, Thailand planned to eliminate quarantines for visitors to the lovely tourist haven of Phuket Island as of July 1. A recent spike in Covid-19 cases in the country has put those plans on hold. Vaccines that had been earmarked for tourist industry workers on Phuket are being redirected to other areas.
Vaccine rollouts are giving countries and tourists hope of controlling the virus and creating the conditions that will allow travel to resume. Some countries are attempting to prime the travelling pump by offering special deals. But as Thailand illustrates, spikes in SARS-CoV-2 infections make hopes and plans for new travel uncertain.
What are the necessary conditions or types of incentives that would be sufficient to get you back on the road? For me, avoiding spending days in quarantine is most important.