Vaccine Tourism: How 'Visit, Vaccinate & Vacation' Trend is Helping Countries Welcome Tourists Back

As the world copes with the new strain of COVID19, businesses across sectors have taken a significant hit. With restrictions on mobility and revised Covid norms across countries, the Hospitality, Travel & Tourism sector have been partially, if not fully immobilized. Although governments across the globe are trying to restart the economy by infusing liquidity in the priority sectors, the need of the hour is a generous push to safe travel & tourism.

The only way travel and tourism can be remobilized is by country-wide fast-paced vaccination drives or ‘vaccine tourism’, which could help boost travel & tourism.

To tackle the pandemic, countries across the globe are executing nationwide vaccination drives. However, the long wait is fuelling ‘vaccine tourism’, a trend that has recently emerged across the world. While some countries have an excess supply of vaccines at their disposal for high-paced vaccinations, some countries are doing the vaccination drives in a phased manner.

Countries like Thailand, India, Vietnam and Taiwan are among the few facing a shortage of vaccines, fuelling HNIs and UHNIs to travel to a different country for vaccinations and better healthcare facilities. A trend we had seen already seen from the beginning of the pandemic, where HNIs/UHNIs are shifting base to more developed countries to be in a better place to face the pandemic.

Tailored packages for Global Citizens

Many travel companies from India and overseas are offering lucrative deals for vaccination along with a vacation. Some countries are even offering tailored packages for travellers. For instance, an exclusive travel and lifestyle companies based in London that charge over £25,000 to their members received more than 2000 applications after the announcement of the package.

Similarly, wealthy patients seeking to travel have reportedly contacted a New York-based concierge medical service that charges a high yearly membership fee for unlimited access to health services in New York. German travel agencies are also advertising vaccine vacations in places where the local population is adequately vaccinated.

Travel agencies in Norway also provide similar services for individuals to travel to countries like Germany and Russia. The latter includes access to the Russian-made Sputnik V. Maldives, a tiny Asian island known for its serene beaches in the Indian Ocean is offering a package that promises a vaccination on the beach. Vaccine tourism has quickly evolved to become a profitable business opportunity for many agencies and an excellent solution for many individuals.

With declining cases, countries like the UK now allow some non-essential travel in a traffic light-based system. The travellers coming from the Red List category countries are required to purchase a ‘quarantine package’ introduced by the government for the safety of the travellers and the people around them. The UK government has allocated 16 hotels with 4600 rooms set aside for the quarantine package travellers. Several countries are offering a similar package with a tour of some parts of the said country for an Immune Vacation Experience.

The Implications of Vaccine travel

COVID-19 Vaccine tourism is also a health/medical tourism; hence it shares many characteristics with existing medical tourism. It is subject to the same market dynamics as a scarce resource in high demand, causing desperate people to seek it out. It is built on the promise of protection from this deadly virus while offering restriction-free travel.

Vaccines provide a high level of immunity against the disease, according to several clinical trials. Many countries are allowing students and travellers to enter only upon presenting a certification of vaccination. A vaccine certificate is perhaps almost as vital as a passport when travelling overseas. While saving lives is essential, protecting livelihood is as important. No one knows when will we return to total normalcy, till then prevention and careful travel is the only option available to us.

The article is authored by Dillon Bhatt, Head of International Business Development, Millwood Kane International.

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