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Travel certificates threaten tourism ethics

Shawn Cumberbatch

Travel certificates threaten tourism ethics

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Countries should be cautious when requiring visitors to have travel certificates as it could raise questions about tourism ethics.

Destinations should also avoid making COVID-19 vaccines part of vaccination holiday packages because these injections “must remain a global public good”.

That is the position of the World Committee On Tourism Ethics, which has been called “an independent and impartial body of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)”.

The UNWTO said the committee recommended that “certificates for international travel must be free, universally available and non-discriminatory [and] must also be limited in time and use”.

The committee members, drawn from tourism sector leadership, academia and international organisations, adopted the recommendation on COVID-19 Certificates for International Travel. This followed a series of consultations with experts and stakeholders from around the world.

Committee chairman Pascal Lamy, said: “We hope that this recommendation will provide a global ethical framework that will aid the much-needed recovery of tourism.”

The committee noted there were “various initiatives concerning health or COVID-19-related certificates and passports as well as a number of bilateral agreements between states with a view to facilitating the entry of vaccinated persons into their respective territories”.

It called on national and international authorities to “achieve a broad vaccine distribution and roll-out, by all useful means, while deploying a high degree of solidarity towards less advantaged countries and protecting local populations in this regard”.

Lamy indicated that the tourism industry was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that “resuming international travel is indispensable for its recovery”.

He elaborated: “This may necessitate the use of sanitary passes, this is why the World Committee On Tourism Ethics at the UNWTO has taken the initiative… issuing a recommendation on COVID-19 certificates for international travel.

“It sets conditions under which we believe these instruments are compatible with ethics of tourism, leaving sanitary aspects to the WHO. We did it after consulting with experts and stakeholders around the world and we hope it will provide a global ethical frame that will help a much needed recovery of tourism,” he added.

The UNWTO committee advised that any COVID-19 certificate for international travel would have to meet the following conditions:

  1. The certificate should be a unique document, containing information on the vaccination status, and/or diagnostic (molecular, PCR and antigen) and/or information about recovery status.
  2. The certificate should be limited in duration and its use should be discontinued as soon as the WHO no longer considers COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
  3. The certificate should be used primarily for international mobility.
  4. For maximum accessibility, the certificate should be available both in digital and paper format.
  5. The certificate must ensure, in both formats, data protection and security, as well as the privacy of the holder. Said certificate must also provide a guarantee of authenticity to avoid fraud and misuses.
  6. The certificate should be free of charge; international cooperation and governments should ensure the population’s wide access to free vaccines and affordable tests.
  7. The provision of vaccines and related certificates at destination countries should not form part of package tours or other similar products nor should such initiatives be supported by governments. (SC)