Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 could soon turn their vaccination paperwork into a golden ticket for international getaways. Domestic travel has started to pick up in recent weeks, but demand for international travel remains low. Many countries continue to impose restrictions on who can cross their borders amid the coronavirus pandemic, limiting entry to their own citizens or people conducting essential business.
What regions are ready to reopen their borders? So far, the list of countries that have relaxed the rules for vaccinated vacationers is short, but travel experts expect it to grow in the near future. “The evidence overwhelmingly points to more countries relaxing entry requirements, by eliminating quarantine / testing rules, for fully vaccinated travelers,” said Jordan Staab, president of SmarterTravel Media, owner of the Airfarewatchdog flight booking website. com. Several companies and organizations are developing “vaccine passports” that could simplify things for international travelers. The International Air Transport Association, an airline trade group, is launching a digital Travel Pass that allows users to upload vaccination evidence or COVID test results to a mobile app. So far, 23 airlines have agreed to test the IATA Travel Pass, including Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines. Among the regions that appear to be most prepared to relax the rules for vaccinated people is the Caribbean, Staab said. “The Caribbean appears to be the region most open to tourists today, and it is likely that it will continue, either by opening up to all tourists or only to those who are fully vaccinated,” he said. Several cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, have announced their plans to resume sailings from Caribbean ports with only fully vaccinated people allowed on board the ships. In Europe, politicians from countries like Portugal and Greece, whose economies depend heavily on tourism, have suggested they plan to allow vaccinated people to travel there. However, in these cases, Americans could still be barred from entry, depending on how the rules are set and whether specific vaccinations are required to enter. The vaccine produced by Moderna MRNA, -0.79%, for example, has only received full or emergency authorization in 41 countries, while the vaccines from Pfizer PFE, -0.62% and AstraZeneca AZN, -1.86% They are approved in some capacity by more than 100 countries. However, unvaccinated travelers are not without options. Many countries have once again allowed tourists to visit, even if visitors are not yet vaccinated. In these cases, travelers generally must obtain a negative COVID test prior to their trip and are sometimes subject to additional testing and a period of self-isolation upon arrival. And some of these countries, like Mexico, may not be willing to require proof of vaccination for tourists, because those policies could backfire and deter some travelers, especially from the US “They rely heavily on tourism, and I don’t see them demanding a vaccine to enter the country right now, ”said Bruce Rosenberg, director of operations for HotelPlanner, a group booking website. “In any case, they will say: ‘We are more welcoming and more open.’
US Embassies, US News & World Report, The Points Guy
Some parts of the world are more likely to remain closed to leisure travelers. Most of Western Europe, for example, has maintained very strict policies regarding who can enter its borders amid wider blockades due to the pandemic. And many of the smaller island nations in the Pacific Ocean have kept borders completely closed amid the pandemic, given the relative lack of medical facilities and how prone they would be to outbreaks nationwide if sick people entered their countries. Rise As More Places Resume Flight Search Patterns Suggest That When Countries Add New Policies That Encourage Vaccinated People To Visit, They See A Significant Increase In Interest. After Iceland reopened its borders to immunized visitors, there was a 93% increase in flight searches, according to data from Hopper. And there was a 77% increase in searches for flights to Portugal after officials announced their intention to welcome tourists from the UK. But higher demand will not necessarily lead to higher capacity. Airlines have greatly reduced the number of flights operating amid the pandemic to cut costs, and it may take time to resume full operations in the event that there is another surge in COVID-19 cases globally leading to to a repeated slowdown in travel. “Reduced capacity, increased demand and the need to recoup costs will likely cause airfare prices to rise later this year into next year,” Staab said. “Airlines will not immediately return 100% of their pre-pandemic routes, even as demand grows, which means that demand could outstrip supply, and airlines can raise fares and still fill seats.” Airlines could even raise prices “to compensate for having to establish an infrastructure to verify that passengers are vaccinated,” Staab added. Also, the rising cost of jet fuel will add to the expense of travelers. Airfarewatchdog currently recommends that people book their international travel by the end of May to ensure lower prices, as well as the relaxed limited-time policies for free flight changes for cheap fares. However, at the same time, prices could be lowered for other travel-related costs, including hotels and activities. “Mexico and the Caribbean are still a value because they are trying to attract customers to leave the United States,” said Rosenberg, adding that the same philosophy could be applied in major European cities that are tourist centers.