World's biggest economies bet vaccine passports can save tourism

Travel and tourism has been one of the industries hit hardest by restrictions on activity to contain the coronavirus.
Travel and tourism has been one of the industries hit hardest by restrictions on activity to contain the coronavirus.PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME (BLOOMBERG) - The world's most powerful economies agreed to back plans for so-called vaccine passports in a bid to pull the travel and tourism industry out of a pandemic-fuelled slump.

Tourism ministers from the Group of 20 threw their weight behind the new certificates, stressing that a resumption of normal activity for the sector is crucial to global economic recovery, according to Italian Tourism Minister Massimo Garavaglia.

A virtual gathering on Tuesday (May 4), the first such meeting under the Italian presidency of the forum, backed efforts for safe mobility, coordinating with initiatives including the European Union's Digital Green Certificate. That document will show the bearer has been fully vaccinated, has immunity via recovery, or recently tested negative.

Mr Garavaglia told a press conference in Rome that he had requested, and obtained from European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton, a commitment to accelerate introduction of the EU green certificate as much as possible.

"Tourism will be the key to recovery once the pandemic is defeated," Mr Garavaglia said.

Hard-hit sector

Travel and tourism has been one of the industries hit hardest by restrictions on activity to contain the coronavirus. Its contribution to global output collapsed by 49 per cent to US$4.7 trillion (S$6.3 trillion) in 2020, causing the loss of 62 million jobs, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. International visitor spending plunged by an unprecedented 69 per cent.

"Our mountains, our beaches, our cities are reopening," Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said at the press conference. "I have no doubt that tourism in Italy will come back stronger than before."

Thomas Bareiss, a German deputy economy minister who took part in the meeting, said a new start for tourism should be guided by the principle of "build back better".

"We agreed that we want a more resilient, more sustainable and more inclusive tourism sector in order to be better equipped for the future," Mr Bareiss said in an emailed statement.

EU member states would reopen borders to travellers from countries with relatively low infection rates, as well as those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, under a proposal unveiled on Monday. It could be adopted as soon as the end of May.