The mass roll-out of vaccines in the UK, allied to mass testing across the Continent has led to increased confidence within the travel industry that international travel will rebound sometime later this year.
From a leisure perspective, Tui has already received 2.8 million bookings for 2021 summer holidays with more than half coming from the UK, reports the Guardian. That is just over half the bookings for 2019.
While there is also pent up demand from business travellers, with all but essential travel banned, it does leave the question of what international travel in 2021 and beyond will look like.
The most obvious point is that those people opting to travel abroad in 2021 will face a series of challenges few would have foreseen before Covid.
Despite the government’s recent avowal that it will not support a vaccine passport, the reality is that several countries including Denmark and Estonia are already developing some form of digital vaccine passport or e-certificates.
Greece has already gone on record to state that it would welcome UK visitors if they could prove they had been vaccinated.
Digital Travel Wallets
Organisations such as the WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council) are already looking into the possibility of introducing some form of digital travel wallet that would include details of vaccination and Covid tests, as well as possible health insurance details and even ticket information and hotel bookings.
The problem in developing any such system, as in Covid test certificates, is preventing fraud. After all we have all heard of people buying Covid tests over the Internet. Adopting a common standard across the entire travel supply chain may also prove problematic in the short-term too.
Test and Go
Even if vaccine passports do not make it off the ground, mass testing already has. Many countries already require a negative Covid test before a passenger is allowed on a plane. Often this needs to be followed up by a further test either upon or shortly after arrival in the country.
Many also require incoming visitors to self-quarantine in a designated hotel while the second test is being conducted. This can take a matter of days, or in the case of certain countries, such as Thailand, weeks. Other countries have banned anyone arriving in their country, except in special circumstances.
If cost is not a prohibitive factor for business travellers, time certainly will be.
What Can You Do When Travelling?
Even when travellers arrive at their destination, there is no certainty that they will be allowed to roam freely as used to be the case.
Last year, certain Caribbean nations opened up to visitors but only upon condition that they pre-booked their accommodation in approved hotels that had implemented a stringent Covid hygiene policy. It is not too far a stretch to see this being implemented in certain key business destinations this year.
The time when you could just book a ticket and then travel freely have gone, at least for the time being.
Even when travellers return home, they will hardly receive a warm welcome.
As it currently stands all incoming travellers, even those from countries not on the red list, will be required to take two tests after arriving in the UK, while they quarantine for ten days, either at home or in a designated hotel. Failure to conform to the rules could end up with you getting a mind-boggling ten-year jail sentence. At this time this quarantine is seen as a key constraint for business travellers.
Government regulations should reduce in severity as the pandemic lessens with the approach of better weather, and as the benefits of the vaccination programme kick in. However, depending upon which country people are travelling back from, regulations are likely to apply throughout 2021.
Staying on the Ball
Never has a Travel Management Company (TMC) played such an important role in navigating customers through the ever-changing requirements of overseas travel. Therefore, it is vital that all Business Travel Agents remain abreast of current regulations both in the UK and abroad.
Even then, the likelihood is that regulations – especially for trips booked in advance – will change for better or worse prior to or even after departure. Like quarantine, this is seen as a key challenge by the business travel community. Meon Valley Business Travel has invested in a number of new technologies to monitor and report on Covid related travel information to ensure travellers avoid any unwanted surprises.
International travel will recover, either later this year or in 2022, as certain restrictions are eased. However, the guise it will assume will be much changed from how it looked pre-Covid. It is therefore vital that TMC’s can provide their customers with total peace of mind with respect to navigating this new landscape and offer total flexibility to promptly manage further changes as and when they occur.