THE ROAD BACK
CEOs from three industries talk about the impacts they have faced over the past year and a half, as well as the challenges and promises of what lies ahead for their sectors
James Thornton, chief executive, Intrepid Travel How is the travel industry faring across the world, with some countries better off than others at the moment?
It’s a very mixed bag globally, and in most places the industry continues to be in survival mode with borders shut and travel restrictions in place. In the northern hemisphere, we experienced a strong US domestic season, outperforming 2019, while in Europe and parts of the Middle East we have also seen vaccinated travellers return. We expect 2022 to be the year when the world starts to move again.
What has been the main impact of Covid on the travel sector?
It has been devastating. Tourists literally disappeared overnight, and so many livelihoods were directly impacted. But our sector is resilient, and it will bounce back – and when it does, it’s crucial that we partner with, and give back to, communities. The industry must come back in a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive manner to ensure it benefits the people and places we visit.
The borders are slowly reopening. So, how is Intrepid opening up to the world again?
Signs that Australia’s international borders may soon reopen certainly give us a lot of hope, but removing hotel quarantine for fully vaccinated people will be the key to truly restarting travel again.
We expect to run more than 200 trips in October. It’s a long way from the 3000-plus a month we did pre-pandemic, but it’s a start. We’ve also introduced a mandatory vaccination policy for all travellers and tour leaders, to ensure we restart responsibly and safely.
I’m proud to say 90 per cent of our leaders globally have received their first dose, and 73 per cent are fully vaccinated.
What difference to international travel can people expect?
The requirement to be fully vaccinated will increasingly be a part of travel. All customers must be vaccinated to join our tours. Tourists will increasingly need to be vaccinated in order to stay in hotels or visit restaurants, as we are seeing in countries such as France and Italy.
How is the travel industry encouraging people to get vaccinated, and what incentives have you heard about?
I support anything that helps get everyone vaccinated as soon as possible. At Intrepid, we are focusing our efforts on advocacy, education and fundraising to ensure more people are able to access vaccines. For instance, our team in Peru successfully lobbied for a vaccination hub in the Sacred Valley, so porters and other tourism workers can access vaccines more easily.
How can the public give back to the industry, so we can enjoy travel again as quickly and as safely as possible?
The biggest thing you can do is to get vaccinated as soon as you can. But as a global business, we’re also really concerned about vaccine inequity around the world.
Fewer than 2 per cent of vaccines have been delivered to low-income countries. The pandemic won’t be over, and travel won’t be able to restart in a meaningful way, until more people everywhere can access vaccines.
Through our not-for-profit The Intrepid Foundation, we are raising funds for UNICEF to power the largest vaccination procurement and supply operation in history as part of the COVAX facility. If you can, please pay it forward.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I’d like to acknowledge everyone who is working on the global vaccine rollout, including all the healthcare workers here, and all around the world. A particular shout-out to the people and organisations like UNICEF who are delivering vaccines in remote regions or countries. They’re saving lives and helping to restart economies and livelihoods.