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COVID-19 travel passports - statistics & facts

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic turned travel and tourism upside down in 2020. As most governments worldwide implemented stay-at-home measures to slow down the spread of the virus, normal travel was heavily disrupted. As a result, global leisure tourism spending roughly halved in 2020 over the previous year, while business tourism spending worldwide dropped by over 60 percent. In 2021, with mass vaccination campaigns taking place around the world, several countries started to discuss the introduction of COVID-19 travel passports – also referred to as vaccine passports – to relaunch travel and tourism during the pandemic, while minimizing the risks of new COVID-19 infections.

What are COVID-19 travel passports?

These travel passes are intended as digital or paper certificates to be issued to travelers who have been either vaccinated against COVID-19, recovered from a COVID-19 infection, or recently tested negative. For instance, this is the case with the so-called "Digital Green Certificate", proposed by the European Commission on March 17, 2021. This idea, particularly supported by countries of the European Union whose economies largely depend on tourism, like Greece or Portugal, is to ensure safe travel across EU countries, without having to implement quarantine obligations or travel restrictions.

A similar solution, known as the "Travel Pass Initiative", has been promoted since late 2020 by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This involves an app that would help passengers find test centers and receive test results and vaccination certificates via mobile, in order to easily show these documents via QR codes to the travel authorities prior to the trip. As both the EU and IATA’s proposals involve a travel app to manage personal data, it will be important to consider how to effectively keep travelers’ privacy safe. In this respect, a February 2021 survey revealed that the main concerns of travelers related to the use of digital health passports were linked to data and privacy worries.

What do travelers think about COVID-19 travel passes?

A March 2021 poll found that nearly nine in ten respondents worldwide would support the introduction of COVID-19 passports for international trips, and most interviewees would also back this solution for domestic travel. In the same month, a similar study conducted in four European countries revealed that roughly seven in ten interviewed Britons approved the idea of restricting travel abroad only to those vaccinated against COVID-19, while only around 40 percent of German, French, and Italian respondents believed the same. In terms of business tourism, according to a survey published in February 2021, the idea of vaccination passports was particularly popular among U.S. business travelers aged between 35 and 44 years, meanwhile the lowest approval was among younger respondents.

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