News is emerging about wealthy or powerful individuals buying their way to the front of the vaccine queue. A few travel and lifestyle organisations and medical travel destinations are also offering medical tourism vaccinations for those who are rich. But can some countries develop vaccine tourism if their local population is already protected against Covid-19?
Targeting this segment, the UK travel and lifestyle management company Knightsbridge Circle, is offering its members luxury vaccine package holidays. Clients can board a private jet to Dubai or India where they have the vaccine, stay in a luxury apartment or villa for 21 days before receiving a booster jab, then fly home, for a cost of £40,000 (US$56,000). The Knightsbridge Circle also has supplies of the Pfizer and Sinopharm vaccines from India and the UAE, with Morocco being explored. In its defence the club claims to only offer vaccines to members over 65.
International travel is currently banned from the UK unless there is a business reason for doing so, something that wealthy people with an international lifestyle may be able to produce. It is not possible to purchase the Pfizer vaccine privately in Britain, but the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may become available to individuals.
Separately Dubai and Abu Dhabi are offering private appointments for the Pfizer vaccine. Vaccine tourism is also being increasingly reported in India and the USA.
FIT Reisen, a German tour operator in Hamburg has also said it is planning luxury health vacations that come with the Coronavirus vaccine. A starting package will sell for €2000- €3000, plus the medical cost and cost for the vaccine. It is accepting nonbinding registrations, despite not having a specific programme to sell. The Seychelles has denied media reports that it is a destination for the tour operator, but Israel has stayed silent.
FIT Reisen claims that it will not take the vaccine away from the local population and will only offer packages once a majority of the residents in destination countries are vaccinated. Following criticism from health experts in Germany and allegations of lack of ethics, the company may not launch the packages.
Several Indian travel agencies have been arranging, until travel restrictions stopped them, vaccination trips from India to the UK, USA and Russia. The tour operators promised luxury hotels and relaxation plus yoga, Ayurveda, and massages.
After a television report in Peru on packages for tourists seeking vaccination in Chile, the Chilean government was forced on the defensive, stating “Foreigners who are in the country with a tourist visa will not have the right to be vaccinated in Chile. Neither are those who are as tourists, but who come from a country that does not require a visa.”
But the Maldivian tourism minister stated that the government is contemplating the introduction of and promoting vaccine tourism. The maximum duration of time a tourist can stay in the Maldives is currently three months. However, the stay can be further extended with special permits. The ministry will seek to extend the duration of maximum stay with a new bill that will be submitted to the parliament. The logic is that the Maldives is likely to become one of the first countries to vaccinate its entire population against COVID-19. This, in turn, would make the Maldives one of the safest destinations for tourists.