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Travel in 2021
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The big idea
Travel in 2021 is a stop-and-go journey, as governments and businesses try to figure out an equitable plan to get things back to normal.
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The billion-dollar question
Will travel in 2021 return to normal?
Travel has returned to some extent in 2021, but it’s far from straightforward. It all depends on where you’re coming from, where you want to go, whether you’re vaccinated, and even, which specific vaccine you’ve received. It will partly hinge on how fast governments and airlines can standardize ways to verify testing, as well as vaccination status, in a way that’s equitable across borders.
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By the digits
6.3 million: Chinese nationals who went abroad during the Lunar New Year in 2019
9%: Marriott hotel occupancy in China in Feb 2020
60%: Marriott hotel occupancy in China between July and Sept 2020
3 million: US air travel passengers in April 2020
28 million: US air travel passengers in Nov 2020
21: Days travelers arriving in Hong Kong were expected to quarantine starting Christmas 2020
4: Work days per week in some parts of China to encourage domestic tourism and revive the economy
≥15: Global efforts to create a vaccine passport
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Words of wisdom
“We need to be optimistic about the future of travel. We will travel again. [But] we need to be a little bit more patient for a few more months to come.”
—Bart Buiring, head of sales and marketing in the Asia-Pacific region for Marriott International
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Will I still have to get tested when I travel even after the pandemic is over?
The answer is a resounding yes, writes Tim McDonnell. Though testing regimens and protocols currently vary widely by country and airline, there are efforts to standardize these throughout the industry, paving the way for future requirements that will be here to stay.
“I highly expect for additional levels of bio-screening to become a permanent facet of cross-border travel,” said Carlos Ozores, an aviation industry consultant with the firm ICF. “But the world needs to come to an agreement on what the right approach is. We’re still very far from that.”
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Spotlight on: vaccine passports
Governments have mostly left the task of assuring the health of passengers to commercial airlines. These are just a handful of the efforts currently under development.
Sponsors: The Commons Project Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Economic Forum
Format: Smartphone app
Smart Vaccination Certificate
Sponsor: World Health Organization
Format: Digital certificate
Sponsor: International Air Transport Association
Format: Smartphone app, paper ID
Vaccine Credential Initiative
Sponsors: CARIN Alliance, Cerner, Change Healthcare, The Commons Project Foundation, Epic, Evernorth, Mayo Clinic, Microsoft, MITRE, Oracle, Safe Health, Salesforce
Format: Digital wallet, paper cards with QR codes
Read a comprehensive list here. While a great showcase of ingenuity and responsiveness, the free market for Covid-19 passport solutions creates problems. Experts contend that when it comes to travel health credentials, being understood across borders matters more than choice.
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- Travel will return in 2021—but it won’t be any fun. From on-site Covid-19 testing at hotels to digital health passes, these changes are laying the groundwork for traveling in 2021 and beyond.
- Covid testing for airplane travel is a mess—but infection screening is here to stay. There remains little consistency about the requirements and protocols for Covid-19 testing for air travelers, with no two countries or airlines doing the same thing.
- The Covid-19 vaccine passports in development for 2021. Travel Pass and CommonPass are just two of the many types of Covid-19 vaccine passports that promise to make international travel during the pandemic safer and simpler.
- What will it take for in-person events to return during Covid-19? With many parts of the world under Covid-19 restrictions, doubts are setting in about whether the biggest events of the year can be held safely, if at all.
- Patriotic tours and four-day weeks: How China’s cities are promoting local travel. Local governments and travel agencies are making the most of the world’s most lucrative tourists being stuck at home.
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