Save our summer holidays: is travelling abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic a good option?

Travel during COVID-19 wearing masksThe vaccination roll out in the UK is offering hope to many excited tourists, but individual responsibility is the big weapon to save our Summer vacations.

The situation with international travel is developing in a dynamic manner. On one hand, many travel restrictions have started being lifted, but on the other, these lifted restrictions are being replaced with different travel advice and national travel policies depending on the countries of departures, transit, and arrivals. It means the opening up of global tourism still comes with a great deal of uncertainty. So, after a devastating period for this sector, how should travellers dip their toe back in the water?

Many countries are ready to welcome international travellers, and it seems that a combination of vaccine passports/green health certificates and negative PCR tests would allow vacationers to start their holidays avoiding a mandatory quarantine or, at least, they would be allowed to visit the most popular tourism destinations for vacations. One of the most popular google search terms is ‘countries without quarantine on arrival’, meaning that tourists’ criteria on choosing a destination have changed as a result of this pandemic.

It seems that there will be at least a 3-month window for international tourism, although there is no guarantee that everything will go smoothly. Countries have back-up plans in case there would be a spread of any new SARS-CoV-2 variants that would cause an unexpected soar of cases or deaths, which could possibly reinstate bans and restrictions in international travelling.

So, what choices do we have if we want to travel overseas?

Well, it depends on the levels of risk and uncertainty we are comfortable with.

The safest choice would be to visit destinations that would allow us to travel even under serious restrictions, such as those imposed during lockdowns. For example, if it is possible to visit family members or relatives overseas (VFF tourism), then this would practically eliminate the possibility of being denied boarding a plane (unless, of course, there would be indication of COVID-19 illness).

Another low-risk choice would be to have a green travel certificate for an approved vaccine, which would provide easy access to several international tourism destinations. However, there are various national policies on how vaccinated tourists would be treated at points of entry, so it is still important to choose carefully which countries to visit to avoid problems upon arrival. There is currently an effort to harmonize travel policies in the Western World, which would hopefully make things clearer.

Choosing not to be vaccinated, other than putting our selves into great risk during international trips, is likely to make our lives very difficult with border controls at points of entry – especially if travellers need to take any connection flights. This is a high-risk and time-consuming choice and is expected that individuals will have to abide by various complicated policies, checks and restrictions for unvaccinated tourists.

Wherever travellers choose to visit overseas, PCR tests will still be required for travelling to most popular tourism destinations. And most importantly, international tourists would need to remain healthy throughout the trips, by respecting the basic self-protection measures; and then, of course, ‘prove’ this when they take the final flight back home.

Vaccinated or not, behaving responsibly will save our Summer vacations.

Dr Nikolaos Stylos is Postgraduate Research Director and Senior lecturer in Marketing in the School of Management, University of Bristol. Dr Stylos has a number of interdisciplinary research interests including Tourism Marketing and Hospitality Management. In addition to his active research activity, Dr Stylos founded/teaches on the MSc Marketing programme, a specialist master’s for graduates who aspire to a career or advanced study in Marketing.

Find out more about MSc Marketing at Bristol.