Travel industry key to Covid vaccine equality, Intrepid boss insists

Covid vaccine equity is needed and the travel industry must be part of the solution.

That was the message from Intrepid Travel boss James Thornton, who stressed: “Vaccinations only for the privileged won’t cut it.”

Intrepid Travel launched a fundraising and advocacy campaign earlier this month aimed at supporting “fair and equal access to vaccinations” around the world.

Writing in The Independent, the global operator’s chief executive voiced his view that everything must be done to promote fair and equal access to vaccinations.

“It’s more important than ever to think beyond our own customers and consider the destination and the communities we’re visiting,” Thornton said.

“As wealthier nations relax restrictions thanks to successful vaccine roll-outs, people elsewhere in the world are desperately trying to get their hands on doses.

“The staggering fact is that less than 1 per cent of Covid-19 vaccines worldwide have been delivered to low-income countries.

“This number must be addressed if travel is to restart in any meaningful way.”

And he warned: “If we don’t urgently address vaccine inequality around the world, the brutal reality is that our holiday poses a risk to unvaccinated communities.”

Thornton confirmed that Intrepid’s vaccination policy will require all travellers and tour leaders to be fully vaccinated from September 1.

“We’re taking this step because it’s important to us that we make sure the communities we visit, our leaders and our customers are safe and that we minimise, as much as possible, anyone’s chances of travelling with and passing on coronavirus,” he stressed.

“Where we can, we’re mobilising our teams and resources in the destinations we visit to remove barriers to vaccination. For example, in Peru, our team has been advocating for vaccine equality for remote communities, and offering free transport using our own vehicles to people living in the remote Sacred Valley, to help them access a major vaccination hub in Ollantaytambo.

“Our team has also worked with local government to advocate for a vaccination hub in Calca, where most of our Inca Trail porters live.

“At the start of July 2021, none of the porters that Intrepid contracts on treks had been vaccinated. By the end of July, 80% had received at least one dose.”

He added: “As difficult as the last year and a half has been, I believe the global community has demonstrated kindness on a massive scale.

“We stayed (and, in some cases, are still staying) indoors for weeks or months at a time to protect the vulnerable.

“We have been wearing masks, checking on our neighbours, supporting local businesses and creating new ways of working and living.

“Now, as the global vaccine roll-out picks up pace, we have an opportunity to do it again.

“We’re all eager to explore and forge these much-missed human connections with people around the world. But as travellers, we must do our part to protect the communities we visit.”