Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 may soon turn their immunization documents into a golden ticket for international getaways. Domestic travel has started to rebound in recent weeks, but demand for international travel remains weak. Many countries continue to place restrictions on who can cross their borders amid the coronavirus pandemic, restricting entry to their own citizens or to people performing essential activities. In early April, internet searches for domestic flights were higher than they were at the same time in 2019, according to data from the Hopper travel app. But searches for international flights still lag behind pre-pandemic levels. Currently, only about a third of Hopper searches for flights this summer are for international destinations, with the remaining two-thirds being for travel to the United States. “It’s usually much closer to a 50/50 split in normal years,” said Adit Damodaran, an economist at Hopper. Don’t Miss: CDC Offers Travel Advice To Vaccinated Americans – But Stops Before Saying It’s Okay To Fly But some countries, in an effort to boost travel demand, have ushered in access easier for people who can show evidence. to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Iceland has taken this to the extreme – tourists are only allowed to visit the island country famous for its hot springs and volcanoes if they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or can show documents stating that they previously had the disease and have since recovered. Iceland originally planned to put the new travel rules into effect on March 26, but the country’s government subsequently delayed the policy until April 6. Many other countries, such as Ecuador and Nepal, have taken a different approach to vaccinated travelers. Rather than requiring that they be vaccinated, vaccinated people can instead bypass requirements that they must be tested for COVID-19 before their travel. Thus, border patrols will instead ask for proof of vaccination rather than the results of a COVID-19 test upon entering the country. Which regions are ready to reopen their borders? So far, the list of countries that have relaxed the rules for vaccinated vacationers is short, but travel experts expect it to grow in the near future. “Evidence indicates more countries are relaxing entry requirements – eliminating quarantine / testing rules – for fully vaccinated travelers,” said Jordan Staab, president of SmarterTravel Media, owner of the flight booking website Airfarewatchdog.com. Several companies and organizations are developing “vaccine passports” that could make things easier for international travelers. The International Air Transport Association, an airline trade group, is launching a digital Travel Pass that allows users to upload proof of vaccination or COVID test results to a mobile app. So far, 23 airlines have agreed to test the IATA Travel Pass, including Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines. Among the regions that seem most inclined to relax the rules for those vaccinated is the Caribbean, Staab said. “The Caribbean appears to be the region most open to tourists right now, and this is likely to continue, whether it’s opening up to all tourists or just fully vaccinated tourists,” he noted. Several cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, have announced plans to resume cruises out of Caribbean ports with only fully vaccinated people allowed on board ships. In Europe, politicians from countries like Portugal and Greece, whose economies depend heavily on tourism, have suggested that they plan to allow people vaccinated to travel there. In these cases, however, Americans could still be barred from entry, depending on how the rules are set and whether specific vaccines are required for entry. The vaccine produced by Moderna MRNA, -1.54%, for example, has only received full or emergency authorization in 41 countries, while the vaccines from Pfizer PFE, -0.39% and AstraZeneca AZN, – 1.63% are approved to some extent by 100 countries. Unvaccinated travelers are not without options, however. Many countries have resumed allowing tourists to visit, even though visitors are not yet vaccinated. In these cases, travelers are usually required to take a negative COVID test before their trip, and are sometimes subject to additional testing and a period of self-isolation upon arrival. And some of those countries, like Mexico, may not be inclined to require proof of vaccination for tourists, as these policies could backfire and deter some travelers, especially from the United States. forcing them to have a vaccine to enter the country right now, ”said Bruce Rosenberg, COO of HotelPlanner, a group booking website. “On the contrary, they will say: ‘We are more welcoming and more open’.” United States Embassies, US News and World Report, The Points Guy Some areas of the world are more likely to remain closed to leisure travelers. Most of Western Europe, for example, has maintained very strict policies regarding who can enter their borders amid a wider lockdown context due to the pandemic. And many of the small island countries in the Pacific Ocean have kept borders fully closed amid the pandemic, given the relative lack of medical facilities and how prone they would be to nationwide outbreaks if any. sick people entered their country. Increase as more places resume operations Flight search models suggest that as countries add new policies that encourage vaccinated people to visit, they see a significant increase in interest. After Iceland reopened its borders to vaccinated visitors, there was a 93% increase in searches for flights, according to data from Hopper. And there has been a 77% increase in searches for flights to Portugal after authorities announced plans to welcome tourists returning from the UK. Airlines have significantly reduced the number of flights they operate amid the pandemic to cut costs, and they may be slow to fully resume operations in the event that another increase in COVID-19 cases around the world causes a repeated slowdown in travel. “Reduced capacity, increased demand and a need to recover costs will likely drive up airline ticket prices later this year into the next year,” Staab said. “Airlines will not immediately make 100% of their routes prepandemic, even if demand increases, which means that demand could outweigh supply, and airlines can increase their fares and continue to occupy seats. ” Airlines could even potentially increase prices “to compensate for the need to put in place an infrastructure to verify that passengers are vaccinated,” Staab added. In addition, the rising cost of jet fuel will increase spending by travelers. Airfarewatchdog is currently recommending people book their international travel by the end of May to get lower prices – as well as relaxed limited-time policies for free flight changes for economy fares. At the same time, however, prices could be reduced for other travel expenses, including hotels and activities. “Mexico and the Caribbean are still valuable because they are trying to attract customers to leave the United States,” Rosenberg said, adding that the same philosophy could apply in major European cities that are centers tourism. .