Positive news on Covid vaccine fuels new enthusiasm for travel: Travel Weekly


Good news about Covid-19 vaccines has been on the uptick this month, and with it, a bump in inquiries to travel agencies about what these medical advances might mean for travel in 2021.

The calls don’t always lead to bookings, advisors said, and although the good news is tempered in part by spiking cases around the country, consumer response to the vaccine news appears to both reflect high levels of pent-up demand and herald the nascent return of broad consumer confidence to travel.

On Nov. 9, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that preliminary data indicates their vaccine is more than 90% effective. A week later, Moderna on Nov. 16 said preliminary analysis found its vaccine was more than 94.5% effective. And just before Thanksgiving, AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford said preliminary data found their vaccine up to 90% effective.

“Within an hour of Pfizer announcing their vaccine, we started getting calls,” said Helen Papa, owner of TBH Travel in Dix Hills, N.Y. “Within an hour. It was amazing.”

Cruise lines also saw some positive effects attributable to vaccine news. During Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ most recent financial earnings call, the day after Pfizer’s news, president and CEO Frank Del Rio said bookings in the previous 24 hours were “pretty good; better than the previous four or five Mondays.”

“And that’s, I think, attributable to the vaccine news,” he said. “We did not have any particular promotion or did any outsized marketing.”

Similarly, Royal Caribbean Group chairman Richard Fain addressed the question of positive news about vaccines during Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld, which was held virtually earlier this month.

“I don’t think it will surprise anybody that when the news is scary, people tend to go back into their cocoons,” Fain said. “As the news gets to be more positive they come out. What’s encouraging is how quickly it responds.”

After both the Pfizer and Moderna news broke, Skyscanner found that searches for travel from the U.S. to Mexico surpassed their weekly volume from last year, up 10%. Skyscanner attributed that increase to the vaccine news, as well.

Helen Papa

Helen Papa

For Papa, some of the inquiries she received at TBH have turned into bookings. Clients are “cautiously optimistic,” she said.

On the other side of the country from Papa, Coastline Travel Advisors in Garden Grove, Calif., also received a number of emails and calls from clients following vaccine announcements, according to president Jay Johnson. 

While there has been a general sense of optimism and more confidence in travel’s return by next summer, he said, the influx of inquiries has not yet resulted in new business.

“There is without a doubt a huge amount of pent-up demand to travel in 2021,” Johnson said. “All we need now is confirmation that the vaccines work and a lowering of cases. Then, we’ll be off and running.”

Joshua Bush

Joshua Bush

Avenue Two Travel in Villanova, Pa., saw an uptick in both calls and bookings as a result of the positive vaccine news, but that was tempered by the rising number of cases around the country, said CEO Joshua Bush.

Avenue Two has seen steady, week-over-week increases in travel since mid-August, thanks to domestic travel and clients dreaming about 2021 travel, Bush said. In addition to closer-in domestic bookings, Avenue Two has even been booking things like world cruise segments and expedition trips. Overall, business is down about 70% year over year, but better than the 95 to 97% it was down when the pandemic first hit.

The week before Pfizer had announced its vaccine’s effectiveness, business was “absolutely dead,” which Bush attributed to the unsettled U.S. presidential election. 

But the week of Nov. 16, Bush said, “with the election result [more widely accepted] and the vaccine … we are on track for our best week this year since Covid.” Those bookings were for both the holiday season and 2021 as travelers are getting more optimistic about a vaccine.

At the same time, the good news is offset by the surge in cases and deaths around the world, especially in the U.S.

“We’re hitting milestone death numbers,” Bush said. “We’re hitting milestone cases on individual days. That is really kind of tamping down the news that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We’re definitely in this still.”

In some places, though, travelers have shown less concern about traveling during the pandemic, and the news of the vaccines was akin to a nonevent. Jeanne Polocheck, owner of Well Traveled Texan in Houston, said her Texas-based clients largely kept traveling during the pandemic. Things had initially slowed early this year, but by Memorial Day clients were out and about again, a trend that has continued. Domestic spots and Mexico have been popular.

She didn’t even get one phone call from a client about vaccines.

A potential stumbling block to the recovery of travel is the resistance among some people to being vaccinated. A Gallup poll conducted between Oct. 19 and Nov. 1, before the vaccine trial results were announced, indicated 58% of adult respondents were willing to get a vaccination, a rise from 50% in September.

Lingering and significant reluctance to be vaccinated will likely present hurdles to overcome with regard to travel in the future, said Ensemble Travel Group CEO David Harris.

He pointed to the flu vaccine: It’s been available for decades, but a portion of the population skips it each year.

However, he is more hopeful about a Covid vaccine, given how serious the impact of the virus has been. While a vaccine will never be 100% effective, it could go a long way to the resumption of travel, he said, by giving confidence to governments to relax requirements for quarantines and other deterrents to travel.

“Those should, in theory, be relaxed if you get traction from an effective vaccine,” he said.

Johanna Jainchill contributed to this report.


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Coronavirus Australia live news: Everyone in Australia will be able to get AstraZeneca vaccine, Michael Kidd says


Vulnerable Australians being left behind amid scramble for seats on coronavirus repatriation flights 

Composite image of a woman sitting down holding a dog and a takeaway coffee cup (left) and a woman standing in the snow (right).
Vulnerable Australians stuck overseas, like Kate Monroe (left) and Simone Platovnjak (right), have missed out on repatriation flights despite being told they are first in line to get home.(Supplied)


While the Department of Foreign Affairs maintains it is prioritising the most needy, Australians listed as vulnerable have told 7.30 they have missed out on the latest flights.

“They may as well have just drawn us all out of a hat,” said 28-year-old Kate Monroe, who is stranded in the UK.

“I’d been in tears thinking that I was going to be coming home.

“Once I got to the payment information, an error had occurred. That flight was just gone.”

Some Australians who secured seats conceded on social media they were probably not as vulnerable as others.

“People have got these flights and they may not necessarily be as vulnerable as the rest of us, so it was heartbreaking,” Ms Monroe said.

Another Australian deemed vulnerable, 21-year-old Simone Platovnjak in London, also failed to get a repatriation seat after selecting a flight.

“I got to checkout and the page glitched and I went to refresh it and I lost it,” she said.

Read the full story here.


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Some traveling to the Triad to get a COVID-19 vaccine


There’s major demand for the coronavirus vaccine and some are driving hours to get their doses.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The high demand for the coronavirus vaccine is obvious but some are driving hours to the Triad to get their doses, specifically to Forsyth County.

The county shared a list with WFMY News 2 that shows 35 North Carolina counties that vaccine patients have traveled from to get vaccinated in Forsyth.

Forsyth County said their data is based on the addresses vaccine patients give them.

The map below shows those counties stretch across the state. They are denoted by yellow stars. A white circle shows Forsyth County.

WFMY News 2 asked the Guilford County Department of Public Health whether they have data on where their vaccine patients are coming from. The health department responded via email saying it does not have any data to share at this time.

Some are driving hundreds of miles to get their vaccines but the drive wasn’t that long for Jeff Telander of Alamance County.

“I liken it to trying to get really good seats at a very popular rock concert. If you want good seats you’ve got to be there and ready to click on that button,” Telander said.

Telander decided to get vaccinated in another county because Alamance County is still only vaccinating people 75 and up. Other counties opened up to people 65 and up after the state gave the green light.

“There’s no way to know when Alamance is going to get through to our category and I think it’s important for as many of us to get vaccinated as possible,” Telander said.

He tried several places and was waitlisted. The first to confirm his vaccine appointment was the Forsyth County Department of Public Health.

“It doesn’t matter what county or state you’re from,” Forsyth County Public Health Director Joshua Swift said.

Swift said the state’s vaccination plan allows people to travel for their shots, as long as they are a part of the appropriate phase.

“We have not seen anyone state hop but if they do we will not turn anyone away,” Swift said, “We have had individuals from across North Carolina come to get vaccine. We have seen people from other counties from the coast.”

Meanwhile, vaccine supplies are limited across the state which is creating uneven supplies for counties.

Forsyth County got 5,000 doses this week while Guilford County got 500.

Data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shows since vaccinations began in Mid-December, both counties are neck and neck in the number of vaccines they have given at 30,000 doses each.

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said moving forward, counties will receive vaccine shipments based on population and the doses must be divided among providers.

RELATED: “I feel bad for my parents’| Inconsistency impacting COVID-19 vaccine distribution

RELATED: Did you get this email about the NC Vaccine Management System?

RELATED: COVID-19 Blog: NC to reserve 84,000 vaccine doses, out of 120,000 doses state receives to build backup supply


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Vaccine Rollout Could Be the Fastest Way to Reignite Travel


Getting vaccines out to Americans may be the fastest way to reignite the travel industry, a new survey from Longwoods International, a market research consultancy, has revealed.

According to its latest tracking study of American travelers conducted alongside Miles Partnership, results show that 70 percent of those surveyed indicated vaccines will impact their travel decisions.


Before vaccines began rolling out, a November study showed that 77 percent said they were changing their travel plans because of COVID-19. Now, as vaccines become more available, that percentage has steadily declined to 68 percent in the most recent survey.

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“The arrival of coronavirus vaccines is a game-changer for future travel in the U.S.”, said Amir Eylon, president and CEO of Longwoods International. “We expect the pace of the travel industry recovery to be directly linked to speed that vaccinations drive down cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the pandemic.”

Americans are also becoming more comfortable traveling outside of their communities. Thirty-nine percent of Americans were comfortable in mid-November. That number rose to 46 percent in mid-January.

Communities are also more willing to open up to visitors. Thirty-two percent of those surveyed supported opening up their communities to visitors in mid-November. That support has increased to 41 percent.

Covid-19 is still the biggest factor impacting travel decisions. Longwood’s research found that 46 percent of travelers said that the virus was greatly impacting their decisions. Eighteen percent were greatly impacted by concerns over the economy and 20 percent were greatly impacted by the cost of transportation.


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