TORONTO — The global tourism industry has much to celebrate this week following news of a viable COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
Pfizer Inc., which is developing the vaccine with German partner BioNTech, said Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine may be 90% effective, based on early and incomplete test results. It is now on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, once it has the necessary safety information in hand.
Pfizer has estimated it could have 50 million doses available globally by the end of 2020, enough for 25 million people.
A viable vaccine, certainly, will be a gamechanger for the travel & tourism sector, which has been devastated by the pandemic since early March. In response to the news, Gavin Tollman, Global CEO for Trafalgar, Costsaver and Brendan Vacations, released an op-ed about what Pfizer’s vaccine could potentially mean for the travel industry. Here is his op-ed in its entirety:
“Like many of the days that have changed history, November 9, 2020 is a day that I will never forget. Yesterday’s announcement that drug manufacturers Pfizer/BioNTech are inching tangibly closer to a confirmed, effective vaccination for COVID-19 was one so many of us have been dreaming of as we have dragged ourselves through the dark days that have defined the entirety of 2020.
“Although recognizing that there is a long way to go, finally, a much-needed glimmer of hope for our industry and the world at large, seems very close.
“This is the kind of seismic good news that we all have been waiting for since this virus upended our lives, our businesses and our freedoms.
“What we know from yesterday as a summary, is the following. The companies reported that the interim results of large-scale vaccine trials have proved to be 90% effective against the virus, with no serious side effects. They hope to submit a dossier to regulators for approval by the end of this month, which could mean first doses being given to healthcare professionals before the end of 2020.
“According to reports, pending its approval and release, they now expect to produce enough vaccine to protect 25 million people this year, and up to 1.3bn doses in 2021. We can only hope and pray for its success.
“While this doesn’t mean that the virus is eliminated, what it does mean is that an accessible vaccine offers us a real solution, to be able to start planning our steps to rebuilding the world, our industry, and establishing a new normal.
“Bill Gruber, one of Pfizer’s top vaccine scientists was quoted as being “near-ecstatic” and we in the travel industry, and wider world, should be too. Even though governments are exercising caution and the need for patience, the message we have to take from this news is one of confidence. Importantly uniting loved ones, rebuilding livelihoods and economies and connecting people to the joy of travel once again.
“So, in light of this news, to my teams and to our valued trade partners around the world I say: seize this day. That pend up demand that we have been sensing, hearing and predicting is palpable now.
“My first thoughts are to pick up the phone. If there is one thing that has been cemented this year, it is the innate need for human connection. Don’t hesitate in reaching out to see how you can help your clients get to where they want to go next year. We thrive on personal relationships, and closer to home or further afield, the opportunities to connect to the joy of travel, and to the locals who are waiting patiently to welcome travellers again, are there for the taking. Whether it’s an epic trip in one or more of America’s great National Parks, a safari in Africa, sampling the freshest seafood in Ireland or the tastiest olive oil in Italy, the opportunity is here to spark the interest of those who have been dreaming of where the next adventure will take them.
“Secondly, recognize that we need to go slow, and act with caution. We are not ignorant to the fact that people are and will be cautious, which is only natural after the havoc and destruction that the virus has rippled through our world. Now, more than ever before, travelling with someone you can trust to put your well-being needs first is of the utmost importance. People need to know they can feel confident and still do the things they love as we rebuild our world again.
“Combined with a vaccine, I feel confident in the steps, pivots and incredible amount of work that have taken place to ensure that as an industry, we are operating to the most exemplary, enhanced health and safety protocols.
“As just one example, we at Trafalgar, Costsaver and across our family of brands at The Travel Corporation (TTC) have put into action a number of new and forward-thinking anticipatory initiatives to ensure that when our guests travel again, they feel comfortable, at ease and know their needs are exceeded. From a third on-road team member (our dedicated Well-being Directors) and enhanced policies from beginning to end, coupled with this incredible development towards a vaccine, these enable us to deliver a robust message of reassurance that guests can travel worry-free. And most importantly, they can once again live the travel dreams that they have so deeply missed, just as much as we have been missing them.
“I am now optimistic, to my very core, that we can now look forward to discovering the new normal and with it, and with targeted and focused actions, it will bring a positive 2021 for our businesses, for our connections with family and friends and for fulfilling our clients’ and our own travel dreams.”
With file from The Associated Press