In my opinion, international travel won’t fully recover until fully vaccinated people are spared from taking covid-19 tests before departure.
When speaking to friends right now, I’d say all of whom are vaccinated, it’s no longer fear of the virus that’s keeping people from taking an international trip, but real fear of what might happen if they test positive abroad.
Covid-19 vaccines are fulfilling the ultimate goal of keeping the majority of people from bad health outcomes, but not necessarily from asymptomatic cases and the unknowns of what might happen if they test positive abroad, or the quarantine conditions that can follow.
The logistics of what happens when people do test positive abroad are rarely pretty.
No one wants to go “over” on time off of work due to prolonged, forced isolation – and thousands in added trip expenses can create real hardship. I just don’t see how travel can meaningfully rebound if cases, rather than vaccinations are the metric.
Travel Recovery? Not Quite.
From the jump, I don’t mind testing. I’m used to it, but not everyone is. I’ve flown when practical all year, and that meant obliging to more than 20 covid-19 tests to facilitate the trips, and even more days in mandatory quarantine in some countries.
No positives yet – fingers crossed, but it occurs to me on each and every trip, that if this was designed as a short one, it could immediately become a very long one, with just a single test.
Now that vaccinations have reached critical numbers, and most have had access to them, I like the approach of countries which require proof of vaccination, but no longer also demand a test too.
Tests = Stress
I love hearing feedback from friends who aren’t as travel obsessed as I am, in part because they provide priceless real world data points about the sentiment and worries most people feel.
I always find these chats fascinating, because I quickly realize just how stressful they find picking a covid-19 testing provider for travel, let alone taking one. There’s usually a few angry smirks about added costs, too.
When it comes down to brass tax — book or no book thinking – – this is where the greatest hesitation appears to come up. There’s real worry about taking a test upon arrival, or before being allowed to return, largely because most tests are known for a margin of false positive, which can crush a trip.
If you only have 5 days of holiday from work, can you afford to be stuck for an extra 10 days? If you’re forced to quarantine in place for 10 days, can you afford 10 more days at your hotel or Airbnb? These are heavy issues even for savvy travelers.
Trends Don’t Lie
When examining travel trends this year, most movement was regional, and prioritized places where testing was not required, such as a domestic trip, or for many Americans, Mexico.
Places where testing was not required, or was free and easy, won out in a big way.
In places where testing was required, or would be needed before return, some clever resorts offered “free lodging if you test positive” to get people over their fears. I’m not endorsing that style of travel necessarily, just stating facts.
Putting test costs aside, vaccinated people from places of similar levels of risk really aren’t moving the needle on meaningful covid-19 metrics in the wrong direction.
In the USA, 97% of people in hospital for covid-19 are unvaccinated and 99% of covid-19 deaths are also from the unvaccinated. I witnessed first hand just how easy it was to get vaccinated in the USA for many months now, with or without papers.
Travel simply won’t recover until proof of vaccination is the “out” for testing.
My Opinion On The Great Travel Recovery
In my opinion, allowing international travel to return to a more binary “vaccinated, or not vaccinated”, will be the only way to fully unlock recovery. People want more perks for doing their part.
Either you did your part and can travel freely with proof of vaccination, without the need to show a negative test, or you didn’t and are subject to jumping through hoops until you do.
Most covid-19 related health worries for fully vaccinated people are finally taking a back seat (there are other health worries in life outside of covid-19, of course), but the prolonged worries of facing an unknown setting abroad, or potentially losing a job, or getting hit with thousands in unforeseen expenses bring too many variables for many sound minds.