Plane interior - tourism

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has warned against the implementation of vaccines as a requirement to travel, saying it “would discriminate against less advanced countries and younger travellers, or those who simply can’t or choose not to be vaccinated.” 

In an announcement on Monday, the organisation warned against the overreliance on the vaccine rollout to reopen borders.

The council, which describes itself as representing the travel and tourism industries globally, suggests that a combination of measures “alongside the global vaccine rollout”, including “enhanced hygiene protocols”, will help safely revive international travel. 

In the announcement, it looks to the situation in the UK, where the Government’s COVID recovery roadmap proposes that international travel restarts on 17th May, seven weeks after individuals are due to be permitted to meet up outside.

The WTTC believes that British international travel should be relaunched at the same point as people are allowed to mix outside.

It argues that “in the same way widespread community testing is being provided through rapid test kits twice a week to pupils and anyone in their household or support bubbles, so extensive testing will also permit the safe restart of international travel”. 

Instead of mandatory vaccine requirements (and thus a delay as the vaccine rollout continues), the council advocates that “mask-wearing should not be a choice”, and that “it has been proven to provide the highest level of protection against transmission of the virus.”

In the vast majority of cases, mask-wearing is already not a choice. In June, the EU mandated that all adults and children aged six and over must wear masks when flying. Other countries and authorities worldwide, as well as many individual airlines, have also implemented rules mandating mask-wearing on flights.  

Regardless, the WTTC believes that mask-wearing, “combined with a comprehensive testing regime, enhanced health and hygiene protocols, digital passes and the global rollout of vaccines will allow the safe restart of international travel”. 

 The organisation’s statement comes as countries including Malta ponder the implementation of a digital travel pass system. One proposed version of this is in the form of the IATA Travel App, which is due to be launched in March.

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