Vaccine passports will revive international travel: Booking Holdings CEO

Jessica Wong

As millions of Americans get vaccinated and the demand for travel returns, some big players in the travel industry are supporting the idea of vaccine passports in an effort to revive international travel. “We need to start rebuilding international travel. And if there’s something like a technological way to show […]

As millions of Americans get vaccinated and the demand for travel returns, some big players in the travel industry are supporting the idea of vaccine passports in an effort to revive international travel.

“We need to start rebuilding international travel. And if there’s something like a technological way to show that you are safe to travel, then I am in favor of that,” Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking Holdings (BKNG), the parent company of Booking.com, Kayak and Priceline, told Yahoo Finance. “We really need international travel to come back and the only way that’s going to happen is if we have more people vaccinated and governments feel it is safe to travel.”

After more than a year of restrictions, a full travel rebound rests on reopening international destinations, especially in tourist reliant countries. A vaccine passport, which is a digital card that would show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, could help countries do just that. The idea is that it would help reopen borders by loosening some of the testing and quarantine mandates.

If it happens though, it’s up to the private and nonprofit sectors to implement a system. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday said the administration will not support “a system that requires Americans to carry a credential” and that there will be “no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

BAY SHORE, NEW YORK – MARCH 03: Susan Maxwell-Trumble holds up a vaccination card at South Shore University Hospital after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on March 03, 2021 in Bay Shore, New York. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

‘A lot of pent-up demand’ for travel

According to a recent Booking.com survey, travel demand is showing signs of recovery. 71% of adults in the U.S. say COVID-19 vaccinations make them feel more hopeful and optimistic about traveling in 2021. Meanwhile, 74% of Booking.com’s accommodation partners in the U.S. say they are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the future of their business.

“There absolutely is a lot of pent-up demand,” said Fogel. “We know that people love to travel. Basically, they are waiting to feel safe and now that people are getting their vaccines, they are feeling it is okay to travel. We are beginning to see [the rebound] happen.”

The survey also showed that more than half of Americans have re-evaluated the importance of travel in their lives. They now view it as more important than they did before the pandemic because of the “role it plays in their emotional well-being.”

As more people book vacations, demand will ultimately struggle to keep up, pushing prices higher after being depressed for more than a year.

“You should have done it yesterday,” Fogel said of booking summer vacations. “We are seeing airfare and hotel prices go up.”

And that’s certainly being reflected in airports nationwide. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers screened 1.58 million travelers on Friday, marking the busiest travel day since the pandemic began. In fact, the TSA has screened more than 1.5 million people at airport checkpoints every day since the start of the month.

Seana Smith anchors Yahoo Finance Live’s 3-5 p.m. ET program. Follow her on Twitter @SeanaNSmith

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