Russia is the first nation to open up the doors for tourists to visit their country, holiday and get the Sputnik V jabs.
- With airlines and countries establishing safe travel bubbles, global tourism industry is now offering vaccine vacations, the vacation itinerary and inoculation planned.
- On May 12, Russia welcomed its first batch of Vaccine Tourists from Latvia where the tourists received their first jabs.
- Travel agencies in India are offering a 24-day vaccination trip package to Moscow costing upwards of $3,000 per person.
- USA, Maldives, and Dubai are also in line to open up their countries for tourists and offering them vaccination.
These are stressful times. With the states extending lockdowns and mandating negative RT-PCR tests if you want to cross the state border, and e-pass to travel inter-district. While the restrictions are essential in breaking the chain of Covid-19 spread, they surely have distressed the normal life. Such has been the torrid redundancy of lockdown life that most of us would jump at the opportunity of a getaway.
But with travel shut, and the second wave brutally invading the country, it is expected that the tourism industry is going to take at least two more years to get back to its feet. On the other hand, despite mass vaccination drives across the country, people are still struggling to get a slot on the government’s CoWin app with a humongous demand and supply mismatch. But there is a solution to every problem:
What if you get a chance to travel abroad and also get vaccinated on the trip?
Yes, that’s the new trend of Vaccine Tourism that has started to gain popularity, and for many its an enticing and promising option.
What is Vaccine Tourism?
Traveling to other countries for medical procedures such as surgeries, IVF, is a common phenomenon but vaccine tourism is a new concept. With airlines establishing air bubbles to make travel safer, now travel agencies are giving people a chance to travel abroad, be a tourist and also get the jabs, with the entire Covid-proof itinerary planned.
Travel agents in India have started offering a two-in-one vaccine vacation to Russia where tourists will get Russian-made Sputnik V jabs. The interest among Indians in going to Russia is high because of one reason mainly: The India’s inclusion of Sputnik V in its vaccination program and its effectiveness against Covid-19 variants.
Russia making the move
A Delhi-based travel agency’s Vaccine Tour package has gone viral on the internet in which it has mentioned that the 24-day trip to Russia will cost between INR 2.2 to 2.4 Lakh per person, including the stay in a 3-star hotel with 20 days in Moscow and 4 days in St. Petersburg. The package consists of guided tours, sightseeing, and two shots of vaccines. Just that the visa fees of INR 10,000 are not included in the package.
The buzz had heightened for the first time back on April 1, Sputnik V tweeted inviting travelers to Russia to get #SputnikVaccinated and that has grabbed many eyeballs. Then on May 12, the country welcomed its first vaccine tourists from Latvia and gave them their first jabs.
USA, Maldives, Dubai…many in line
New York is currently planning to roll out a vaccination program for tourists regardless of their nationality. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is keen on offering one-shot Johnson & Johnson doses to the tourists at some of the popular attractions including Times Square, Central Park, Empire Estate Building, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and many others. Along with the USA, Asian minnow the Maldives which is one of the most visited destinations for rich Indians has also planned to roll out the “Visit, Vaccinate and Vacation” initiative to boost tourism in 2021.
Dubai, another popular destination has allowed Indians with resident visas to register for the vaccine slots. Though travel to Dubai is still banned for Indians, residents foreigners and diplomats can still enter the UAE city.
Vaccine Passports vs Vaccine Tourism
Vaccination is one of those keys where the many aspects of life can return to normal. Traveling is surely one of them. Apart from breakthrough on-arrival testing R&D, the proposal of vaccine passports is doing rounds as well. It appears like it can become a required document for traveling in the near future. The concept has seen tremendous support around the globe. The European Commission is eager to open up its tourism plans with a requirement to produce a digital certificate of vaccination/ Green Digital Certificate to enter the Union.
But in a country like India where only 3 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated, rather than vaccine passports, vaccine tourism can be considered more feasible. Not only the people will get a chance to visit other countries but also get themselves inoculated and immune to the virus when they come back.
Road ahead for Vaccine Tourism and Mass Inoculation
The concept of vaccine tourism is surely a boon in such times as the travel industry. It could be the elixir the industry needs. Countries like Greece have opened up travel of tourists vaccinated from Russia. The global travel and tourism losses due to the pandemic are now touching $1 Trillion. Vaccine holidays is the tourism industry’s chance to rise from the ashes. But there’s a catch to it.
Vaccine tourism needs a country to have enough doses to vaccinate its citizens and on top of that tourists as well. Russia has opened up but countries that are still in the planning phase of this initiative must execute it in such a way that their citizens should be prioritized and there should not be any shortage of the vaccine doses. For instance, Dubai will be planning this initiative by the end of 2021 when its whole population will get the jabs.