Travel industry must ‘roll with the punches’ amid Covid uncertainty, says travel services firm

The travel industry will have to “roll with the punches” as government requirements continue to evolve with the pandemic, according to the Asia-Pacific president of a travel services firm.

“The key thing is that the industry will remain in flux for the foreseeable future,” Todd Handcock of Collinson Group told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Wednesday.

He pointed out that Hong Kong this week announced plans to ban flights from eight countries, after Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the city was “facing a very dire situation of a major community outbreak any time.”

In contrast, the U.K. is set to relax testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers, Handcock added.

Testing and vaccinations will continue to be part of the process of travel for 2022 and possibly 2023, he said, referencing a recent survey that Collinson conducted with CAPA – Centre for Aviation.

“We’re going to have to continue to roll with the punches and adjust as things change,” he said.

He also said he doesn’t expect omicron to cause “significant” changes.

Goals and obstacles ahead

When asked if verification of tests and vaccination statuses could be simplified for travel, Handcock said the goal is to have a digital, interoperable system that can be used globally.

But he added: “We’re still a long ways away” from that.

Raising vaccination rates around the world would also be good for anyone who travels, he said.

Developed countries have raced ahead in offering booster shots, while much of the world hasn’t been inoculated, he said.

Echoing the sentiments of experts such as those from the World Health Organization, he added that Covid variants will emerge as long as there are large, unvaccinated populations.

About 59% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine — but only 8.8% of those in low-income countries received at least one dose, according to data collated by Our World in Data.

The WHO said Thursday that the unequal distribution of vaccines will undermine global economic recovery, and that low vaccine coverage in many countries was a major factor in the emergence of variants such as delta and omicron.

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