Can Vaccines Be the Game Changer in Opening up Travel?

As two of Canada’s closest neighbours (UK and US) lead the world in vaccinating their citizens against COVID, we’re seeing clear indications that getting those jabs might be the game changer in getting confinement-weary citizens back on the road again.

For the record, among the 92 countries being tracked by the Bloomberg (news service) Vaccine Tracker, the UK and the US are among the world’s top four vaccine jabbers: (1) Israel, with over 82 vaccinated per 100 population; (2) United Arab Emirates, 52 per 100; (3) UK, 27 per 100; (4) US, 19 per 100. These figures are mostly based on vaccine recipients having received at least one jab—although many have received both. (These figures were effective as of Feb. 22, 2021.)

According to the Guardian newspaper, since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his plans for a May 17 easing of lockdown rules, three of Britain’s top charter carriers reported major increases in international air vacation bookings. Easy Jet bookings surged 630 per cent compared to the week before the announcement—with Spain, Portugal, and the Greek island of Crete among the top destinations.

A similar story with Thomas Cook reporting website traffic up 75 per cent the day after the PM’s announcement, with Turkey the top destination followed by Greece and Cyprus, followed also by significant bookings to the Dominican Republic and Mexico. A Cook spokesperson told media: it “felt like the cork had popped on all that pent-up demand for holidays.”

Meanwhile, in the US, one of the largest aggregators of travel insurance plans reported that in the two months since vaccination efforts truly geared up (the US is now administering 1.39 million doses per day on average), there has been a distinct bounce-back toward pre-pandemic sales levels among all age groups—but particularly among seniors 60 or older.

In addition, travellers are buying their travel policies (which in the US are predominantly geared to cancellation and interruption benefits) an average of 74 days before planned departures. Prior to the initiation of the vaccine rollout, they were buying their polices an average of 42 days ahead of time.

Though much of the cruise industry is still dependent on the US Centers for Disease Control to lift its “No Sail” order before they can resume operations in and out of US waters, most cruise lines are reporting increased interest in advance bookings, as well as customer confidence that cruise ships have gone a long way to ensuring health/safety protocols on board.

Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean Line, claims that the new coronavirus safety protocols will “make sailing safer than a walk down main street.”

Our own informal surveys of Canadian travel insurers reveal a growing confidence that there is a pent-up demand for international travel later in 2021, certainly by 2022—and that traveller vaccinations may play a key role in that reinstatement.

Emphasized one long-established broker: “Canadians really need to get vaccinated and the federal government must ease travel restrictions before Canadians feel confident to travel abroad.”

© Copyright 2021 Milan Korcok. All Rights Reserved.

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