Travel on hold for another season?

Travel across Europe is possible again, but with some limitations. For long-haul travel, the limitations are still more extensive. And so, the long-awaited shift from just dreaming about the next trip to actually going is still a little ways off.

Travel during the ongoing pandemic

The summer season is drawing to a close. Normally, the month of September sees a last big upshot in overseas visitors joining tours. It then tapers off into the winter season. For Nisei-related travel, October is always a popular time to head to the Vosges.

Not yet business as usual

This still isn’t “normal times” though. For the second year running, the travel industry has been cruelly hammered by the pandemic. As cases and hospitalisations started going up again in second and third waves, hopes for a summer of travel disappeared. In Europe, the response has been by-and-large successful through consistent messaging and measured restrictions…. And a vaccination program that has picked up speed.

The countries around the Mediterranean, relying most on tourism for their economies are nearing or have passed a 75% vaccination rate. It allowed for at least some travel to take place within Europe this summer.

And since I have had my shots, I took the opportunity to nip off to Italy (you can read more about my trip in our previous post) for a while.

Moving towards opening up travel

There isn’t one unified “travel rules and restrictions” system yet. There are still some differences in how and when people should get tested as well as the length of quarantines. But it is becoming less cumbersome to travel across the EU at least. The mandatory Passenger Locator Form (PLF) works across the Union. Vaccination certificates from other nations are accepted by more member states. Access to the so-called “green pass” or health certificates – required for access to certain events and venues – is fully digitised.

Granted, travel right now is a bit more cumbersome with all this additional “admin” compared to the days where we could just hop on a plane whenever the mood struck us. It takes careful planning to schedule the pre-departure test AND get the result within the prescribed 48 or 72 hours before boarding, as well as filling in the PLF at the right time to include that information.

Travel made possible through testing programs

There may be a day-2 arrival test to arrange. On the way back, the same process has to be endured again. But it is possible… At least for vaccinated travellers. If you haven’t received your jabs, many countries may still refuse you entry.

And so, the travel industry closely watches vaccination rates. So many jobs depend on it. From the pilots and flight attendants in the airline industry to the tour guides and hotel staff at your destination. But it also affects the local trade and crafts people. The farmers and food producers who supply hotels, restaurants and airlines, and so many more.

Another tough winter for the travel industry

Long-haul travel saw interruption for the second year running. The tourism industry is now facing another winter without the benefit of reserves built up over the summer season. On the pandemic front, winter also signals the increased risk of more infections as we start spending more time indoors. With many of the measures like social distancing and mask-wearing relaxed, more “traditional” winter ailments like the flu – conspicuously absent last winter due to the lack of personal contacts! – are likely to return.

Every year, millions of people voluntarily get their flu shot. Today, vaccination against smallpox no longer happens routinely. But I still sport the scar on my bottom because it was mandatory when I was a baby. Having moved across continents, I was required to repeat some vaccinations as part of the visa procedure, even though I had already received them as a kid. But it was required, so I just did it. And when they start rolling out the booster jab for Covid, I will be in line to get one.

So I don’t quite understand this resistance against vaccination. Specific medical conditions preventing vaccination aside, it seems like a tried and tested way out of disease. And a way back to the freedom of moving around this wonderful planet.

Myself and everyone in the travel industry would like to see you again… We really do!

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