The future of travel in a COVID-19 world

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered the way we live, interact, and travel. To stop the spread of the virus, almost all countries issued travel restrictions or closed their borders for a significant length of time. Now that travel restrictions have been lifted in some areas, traveling to another country (or even domestic travel) is again possible but more tedious and time-consuming. 

Purposeful trips

Even though international travel in the Asia Pacific has seen a 17% growth in the past month, and domestic trips in the region spiked to 170% between February and March 2021, International SOS, the world’s leading health, travel, and security solutions provider, has found that many people, even seasoned business travelers, are apprehensive to travel.

Based on the “Travel Data Trends” study conducted by International SOS, it was revealed that large and medium-scale organizations were troubled by various travel concerns1. 81% of respondents were afraid to get stranded in their destination country if the COVID-19 situation worsens; 57% were concerned about health and safety guidelines; 52% worried about the safety and hygiene of accommodations and transportation, and 45% were anxious if they could provide emergency support to assignees and travelers.

Business travelers have also become more purposeful in terms of their trips. About 32% of them go on trips to pursue business development opportunities while 27% cross borders to fulfill project deliverables. 

The medium of travel

Andrew Candelet, country manager of International SOS Philippines said, “Traveling has become and will remain for the time being more complicated than before the pandemic. Travel requirements and protocols will be subject to change, and will lack consistency from one region to the next, or vary depending on the mode of travel and carrier you are traveling with.”  

He further explained that these variations in protocols are expected to be ongoing and occur without much notice as countries scramble to respond to the prevalence of the virus on the ground. “Travel bubbles and corridors will come and go, depending on how each area is doing. For now, four countries require a vaccination certificate to exempt travelers from quarantine, six countries require a vaccination certificate to exempt people from testing, 25 countries need a combination of tests before and/or after arrival, and 63 countries demand quarantine,” said Candelet.  

On top of these, travelers must comply with about 13 other health and travel guidelines before departure and upon arrival at their destination. These include pre-travel documentation and vaccination, isolation, monitoring, and securing medical clearance. 

The convenience of vaccination passes

The complexity of going from one destination to the next and the demand to ensure one’s safety has led to the development of the AOKPass– a secure, private and portable digital compliance status pass. Launched last March 2020 in partnership with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), SGS Group, and International SOS, the AOKpass health passport enables individuals to collate and store their health and travel declarations digitally on their phones. Compared to paper-based certifications like RT-PCR test results, travel documents, and vaccination records, the AOKpass mobile app is secure, convenient, and not easily tampered with. It also lessens the handling of physical documents which could increase the risk of exposure. 

Darren Toh, CEO of AOKpass said, “Digital certifications like the AOKpass eliminate the inefficiencies and gaps rendered by paper-based certifications such as high cost, inconvenience, vulnerability to fraud, human error, and loss. With the AOKpass, users are assured that their data is secure and private, accessible through both digital and hard copies, and interoperable which can be used for return to travel, work, and play requirements.”

This next-generation vaccination passport uses blockchain and cryptographic protection and is GDPR compliant to safeguard users’ privacy. It is also easy to navigate and intuitive for seamless and hassle-free contactless verifications. The app’s capability is further enhanced by the ICC’s vast network of organizations and International SOS’ global network of clinics and health providers.  

Although the pandemic is far from over, it is becoming more apparent that health certifications and vaccination passports, could be a necessity for more locales, cities, countries, and even businesses to open their doors soon. 


1 International SOS Travel Data Trends: Tracker Data from 1 September 2019 – 31 March 2021


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