Vaccine tourism could assist travel’s restart but it raises the question of vaccine equity.

Vaccine tourism is defined as the act of travelling to another destination to receive a vaccine that is hard to get or unavailable within the traveller’s home country. Some tourist hotspots are now offering tourists the opportunity to receive a Covid-19 vaccination on holiday to attract more tourists after the Covid-19 pandemic brought the sector to its knees. This further increases the divide between the wealthy and less privileged, a concept the tourism sector has long been trying to work against.

Vaccine tourism could play a role in travel’s restart

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), one in four new jobs were tied to the travel sector or were impacted by tourism worldwide before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019. In 2020, 62 million jobs within the sector were lost. Global international departures declined by -72.5% year over year (YoY) and domestic by -50.8% YoY according to GlobalData’s databases. This demonstrates the severe effects of the pandemic and why destinations worldwide are eager for a travel restart. Vaccine tourism is being seen as a key restart method by some destinations with excess vaccines.

GlobalData’s Q2 2021 consumer survey found that only 6% of global respondents were not concerned about the impact of Covid-19*. The remaining 96% 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 available in some countries is leading tourists to travel to other destinations.

Certain US states, Russia, the Maldives and Indonesia amongst others, are destinations that are currently offering vaccinations to tourists. Some travel agencies have taken the opportunity to promote vaccine tour packages charging for inoculation and a holiday package as a way to boost revenue. In Russia for example, three-week tour packages include vaccinations, priced between $1,500 to $2,500 in addition to flight costs. However, many destinations worldwide are still struggling with low vaccine supplies raising the question of vaccine equity.

Many countries are falling behind with their vaccination efforts

Developing countries, such as those in Africa, are struggling with Covid-19 vaccine supplies. According to GlobalData’s Covid-19 Vaccination Dashboard, the Congo has administered 3.5 vaccinations per 1,000 people as of 25th August 2021. The US in comparison had administered 1,115 vaccine doses per 1,000 people on the same date. This highlights there is already a stark gap between vaccination rollouts between different countries and many are being left behind.

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This concept of vaccine tourism has been formed to assist in the global rollout of vaccinations worldwide. However, it could be declared as increasing the divide between the wealthy and poor. The wealthiest people in poorer countries will now be able to access vaccines first as they can afford to travel. This arises the argument that countries promoting vaccine tourism could be donating excess vaccine doses instead of giving access to wealthy tourists that are not necessarily at risk.

*GlobalData’s Q2 2021 consumer survey – 22,338 global respondents