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Perspectives: Why we need a plan for vaccine-based travel

22 Sep 2020  By Contributor

Aotea New Zealand director Richard Hanson calls on the Government to outline its conditions for vaccine-based travel so operators can plan for the recovery of New Zealand tourism.

Richard Hanson

There has been growing optimism in international media regarding the potential approval of vaccines for Covid 19. This is the foundation that will be required to rebuild the world’s tourism industry.

The approval of vaccines is a key marker for any tourism business that is calibrating its hibernation and recovery strategy on the wide-scale availability of international travellers.

But the approval of a vaccine is not a finish line. It is the call to the tourism industry to arrange its vehicles on the starting grid and await the instruction to “start your engines”.

In fact, the approval of vaccines does not necessarily translate into availability. In turn, availability does not necessarily mean the immediate normalisation of travel.

In recent months, limited use approvals have been granted for vaccines in China and Russia. Traditional large scale trials are currently underway on a range of other vaccine candidates. The first results from these trials are anticipated to be available by the end of the year. Announcements of results ahead of the US election is also a timetable that is considered viable by some optimistic commentators.

There are a number of complicated steps between the announcement of a viable vaccine and the reopening of New Zealand’s borders. Consideration of these steps and the Government’s approach will have a dramatic impact on the tourism industry.

Here are the things we cannot control:

  • Production timeframe of vaccine
  • Timetable to administer vaccines within each community
  • Proportion of population immunised
  • Dosage Requirement (one dose or two doses for each person)
  • Timeframe for development of immunity (expected to be at least one month)
  • Which countries have access to vaccines

So, questions for New Zealand:

  • If a visitor to New Zealand has been vaccinated, which vaccines would be approved?
  • If a visitor to New Zealand has been vaccinated, how is this verified?
  • When would vaccinated New Zealanders be allowed to travel offshore and return without isolation?
  • Should the New Zealand population be fully vaccinated prior to opening borders for international travel?

The recovery of international travel will take a period of marketing and scheduling of air capacity. During this time, local businesses will be activating their restart plans and hiring staff.

As vaccines are deployed within New Zealand and overseas countries, there will be period before international travel resumes. This will be a valuable time during which businesses can use to end hibernation and implement their recovery plans.

A well-communicated plan from the Government, outlining the preconditions required for vaccine-based travel, would be a valuable tool in businesses planning for the recovery of tourism in New Zealand.


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