Countries around the world are tentatively reopening their borders to tourists, raising questions about how we can journey overseas in the COVID-19 era.
On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison ruled out any changes to Australia’s advice against nonessential international travel for the coming months after a host of popular tourist destinations announced they were preparing to welcome visitors.
Among them is Australia’s favourite island, Bali, which plans to welcome back tourists in September, provided its COVID-19 case numbers stay low.
Barbados, Bermuda, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany and a fleet of other countries also are gearing up to open their doors to tourists.
Another Australian favourite, Thailand, is expected to open its borders to some travellers later this year.
“It is still dependent on the outbreak situation, but I think the earliest we may see the return of tourists could be the fourth quarter of this year,” Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, told CNN Travel.
“We are not going to open all at once – we are still on high alert. We just can’t let our guards down yet.”
Many of these countries will be letting tourists in on the proviso that they get tested for COVID-19 before arriving.
And several of them are in conversations with other low-risk nations about ‘travel bubbles’ or ‘corona corridors’.
Although these bubbles are still in the planning phases, the race is on to develop a safe encryption app that would allow citizens of different countries to travel freely among them.
At the forefront is Australian company ShareRing, which just launched the first contact-tracing passport. The app can be integrated with e-visa systems, travel insurance, airlines, hotels and tourist attractions.
CEO Tim Boss said the company is currently in talks with several governments about using the technology, which would work as a COVID-19 passport.
“With the COVID-19 contact tracing passport, hotels and activity providers can now grant safe access for travellers to visit tourism hot spots for a much-needed boost to the international travel industry that accounts for nearly 3 per cent of the global economy,” he told The New Daily.
Travellers’ “proof of health” is tied safely to a QR code which is scanned by airports, hotels or shops to reveal the status of their test, allowing for more freedom of movement and interaction with customers.
“When you want to travel you do a test to make sure you’re not COVID-19 positive at an authorised centre,” Mr Boss said.
“They would scan the app and in-put the details when they want to travel and the government and tourism board would approve it,” he said.
“Basically, wherever they go, tourist hot spot or large shopping centre, they would scan the QR code, it’ll flash red, amber or green.
“Green means ‘yes, they’re fine to go in’, amber would mean they’ve been somewhere with a known carrier, red would mean they’ve had COVID-19 and need to self isolate.”
With airliners getting ready to operate on more regular routes, the International Air Transport Association has produced a set of gradual guidelines to make travel is as safe as possible.
Among them are rules around boarding in seat sequence, only allowing one passenger to the toilet at a time, temperature screening and deep cleaning.
Australians will likely not be venturing outside their country until next year, but domestic travel will re-start when and where the virus has been eliminated.
“It’s really important that we get domestic travel re-started as soon as possible, and we’ll certainly be strongly encouraging Australians to holiday at home as soon it is safe to do so,” a spokesperson for Tourism Australia previously told The New Daily.
“Realistically, the restart and recovery of domestic travel is going to be a progressive journey, starting first with day trips and intrastate travel.”