Travel firms may make health certificate must amid Covid-19 crisis

Leisure travel has come to a standstill due to the national and international lockdowns. Until now, there is no clarity when countries will open borders for tourists.
Even as states issue conflicting diktats on whether medical certificates are needed for travel, tour companies are devising their own protocols on resuming business. 

A number of travel firms and tourism boards in India are planning to make medical certificates a must for travellers as they devise protocols to resume business amid the spiralling Covid-19 crisis. Masks, too, would be a must for travellers, they said.

Leisure travel has come to a standstill due to the global lockdowns. Until now, there is no clarity when countries will open borders for tourists. On the domestic side, most of the travel that is happening is of essential and emergency nature. 

On Thursday, Thomas Cook released its standard operating procedure (SOP), listing hygiene norms to be followed by its employees and customers. This includes one-time fumigation of offices, health, and safety training for its staff, digital booking processes among others.

Thomas Cook said the measures were being introduced in partnership with Apollo Hospitals group, following a survey in which 75 per cent of respondents listed health and safety as important concern while booking trips. Before the trip, customers will have to submit fit to travel certificate from a doctor and maintain social distancing with other group members on the tour, Thomas Cook said in its SOP. 

"Our teams have spent significant time at the drawing board, and worked jointly with key travel partners and stakeholders to create this very comprehensive initiative,” Thomas Cook Chairman Madhavan Menon said. The tour operator did not immediately respond on demand and pricing of trips.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), which released three-phased strategy for revival of tourism recently, will also require tourists to submit medical certificates and undergo rapid Covid-19 screening on arrival. "International tourists coming to Thailand should not travel from or have lived in ongoing local transmission areas. They should not have a history of being in close contact with any probable or confirmed cases. A medical certificate is also required," TAT said.

"Once arriving in Thailand, tourists are required to undergo the Covid-19 rapid test screening process for reconfirmation, and then depart for a sealed area without making any stops," it added.

Not just travel agencies, even hotels are gearing up to make medical certificates a norm, apart from other safety measures. At The Park Hotels, apart from requiring its guests to mandatorily have the Aarogya Setu app, the establishment will obtain “health fitness medical certificate at the time of arrival”, according to its website. 

Oberoi Hotels website says: “If the guest is arriving from a restricted country or region, medical history form to be sent as a part of pre registration process followed at reservation stage. For walk in guests, medical history form to be filled on arrival.”

Other brands are also believed to have similar processes in their quest to make travel safe again, experts said. Industry sources, however, feel demand for leisure travel is unlikely to resurface till Diwali. “There is no visibility yet on leisure and corporate travel,” head of another travel firm remarked.

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