Vaccine tourism is a double-edged sword

Vaccine tourism, where tourist hotspots are now offering COVID-19 vaccinations on holiday to attract visitors, is a double-edged sword as, while it could assist travel’s restart, it also raises the question of vaccine equity as it will further increase the divide between the wealthy and less privileged, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData’s Q2 2021 consumer survey found that only 6% of global respondents were not concerned about the impact of COVID-19*. The remaining 94% were ‘extremely’, ‘slightly’ or ‘quite’ concerned. With concerns high, the opportunity to get vaccinated has been seized by many. Lengthy delay or a general shortage of COVID-19 vaccines in some countries is leading tourists to travel to other destinations.

Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The wealthiest people in poorer countries will now be able to access vaccines first as they can afford to travel. This raises the argument that countries promoting vaccine tourism could be donating excess vaccine doses instead of giving access to wealthy tourists.”

Certain US states, Russia, the Maldives, and Indonesia are some of the destinations that are currently offering vaccinations to tourists. Some travel agencies have taken the opportunity to promote vaccine tour packages as a way to boost revenue. In Russia, for example, three-week tour packages priced between US$1,500 to US$2,500, excluding the price of the plane ticket, include vaccinations. However, with many destinations worldwide still struggling with low vaccine supplies, this is raising the question of vaccine equity.

According to GlobalData’s COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard, the Democratic Republic of the Congo administered 3.5 vaccinations per 1,000 people as of 25 August 2021. In comparison, the US had administered 1,115 vaccine doses per 1,000 people on the same date. This highlights there is already a stark gap between different countries, and many are being left behind.

Bonhill-Smith adds: “One positive of vaccine tourism is that it could play a role in travel’s restart after the COVID-19 pandemic brought the sector to its knees. Global international departures declined by -72.5% year-over-year (Y-o-Y) and domestic trips by -50.8% Y-o-Y, according to GlobalData’s databases. This demonstrates the severe effects of the pandemic and why destinations worldwide are eager for a travel restart.”

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