The high cost of Covid-19 testing requirements could thwart the tourism industry’s recovery making travel unaffordable for individuals and families, said the International Air Transport Association (IATA) this week.
Echoing a European Parliament recommendation, the global airline federation is now calling on governments to make testing widely available, affordable and effective in order to “facilitate an efficient re-start of international travel”.
“Raising the cost of any product this significantly will stifle demand,” said IATA Director General Willie Walsh.
World Health Organization (WHO) international health regulations stipulate that states should not charge for testing or vaccination required for travel or for the issuance of certificates.
However, after sampling of costs for PCR tests in 16 countries, IATA found wide variations with France being the only country to comply with WHO recommendations and best practice bearing the cost of testing, including tests to facilitate travel.
According to IATA’s survey, in the 15 markets charging for PCR testing, the cost ranged from 90 dollars to 208 dollars.
IATA notes that even if airline companies were to add the low-end costs of PCR testing to airfares, it would dramatically increase the cost of flying raising a pre-crisis, one-way ticket from 200 dollars to 290 dollars. This would further balloon assuming two tests are needed in each direction, raising a return-trip fare to 760 dollars, IATA said, underlining the impact of the costs on family travel.
“As travel restrictions are lifted in domestic markets, we are seeing strong demand. The same can be expected in international markets. But that could be perilously compromised by testing costs – particularly PCR testing,” said Walsh.
“The impact will be greatest for short haul trips (up to 1100 km), with average fares of 105 dollars, the tests will cost more than the flight. That’s not what you want to propose to travelers as we emerge from this crisis. Testing costs must be better managed. That’s critical if governments want to save tourism and transport jobs; and avoid limiting travel freedoms to the wealthy,” added Walsh.
Meanwhile, the WHO Covid-19 emergency committee has repeatedly urged governments to reduce the financial burden on international travelers.
“Many states are ignoring their international treaty obligations, putting a travel recovery in jeopardy and risking millions of livelihoods. High testing costs also incentivize the market for fake certificates,” said IATA in statement.
“Testing costs should not stand between people and their freedom to travel. The best solution is for the costs to be borne by governments. It’s their responsibility under WHO guidelines,” said Walsh.