The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) recently called upon the government of the United States to urgently “speed up” approval of the UK’s AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to help restore vital transatlantic travel.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the main health authority in the US, last week approved the Pfizer vaccine, however it still does not currently recognise AstraZeneca as an approved coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine.
“Unless it gives it the green light, then the US will effectively remain closed to the vast majority of UK visitors and the many millions around the world who are double-jabbed with the AstraZeneca vaccine,” WTTC Senior Vice President Virginia Messina said.
WTTC, which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, said that even if the Biden Administration allows borders to reopen, the CDC’s non-recognition of AstraZeneca will be a “significant barrier” to transatlantic travel between the UK and the US.
AstraZeneca has the largest global reach of all current vaccines and has currently been administered across 176 countries and territories, highlighting the importance of its approval in the US.
WTTC says CDC non-recognition will continue to “seriously depress” consumer demand and prevent any meaningful revival of transatlantic travel from the UK to the US.
“This will leave airlines, cruise lines, tour operators, hotels and the entire Travel & Tourism infrastructure, which depends upon transatlantic travel, in significant trouble for the foreseeable future,” Messina said.
According to travel and data analytics expert Cirium, UK-US flights scheduled for the last week of August have plunged by 73 percent compared to the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.
Total seats available over this period have collapsed from a high of 287,000 in 2019 to a mere 78,000 in 2021.
WTTC also fears that if the US rounded on a policy which only approved the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccines, this would prevent millions of travellers from visiting America, the third most popular destination for travellers in the world.
The global tourism body has warned that the restart of international travel could be seriously delayed without worldwide reciprocal recognition of all approved Covid-19 vaccines.
“Vaccine inequality could become an increasing barrier to international mobility and continue to inflict damage upon economies around the world,” the global tourism body says.
More complexity around vaccine requirements
In addition, WTTC has grown increasingly concerned that more layers of complexity around vaccine requirements are increasing barriers to mobility and cross-border travel, with Austria recently announcing a 270-day expiry date for Covid-19 vaccine certificate.
The global tourism body believes such a move could significantly delay the recovery of the country’s Travel & Tourism sector, deterring travellers from visiting, causing further damage to the Austrian economy.
Moreover, WTTC has also recently pressed the UK government to bear the cost of hugely expensive and unnecessary PCR tests for fully jabbed citizens, which continues to deter Britons from travelling.
According to WTTC, the pandemic has so far cost the global Travel & Tourism sector 62 million jobs and suffered a loss of almost US$4.3 trillion.