Thursday, August 5, 2021

Vaccine vacations: Abu Dhabi and Alaska offering Covid-19 jabs for tourists

Vaccine tourism for those unable to get a jab at home is taking off.

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Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is offering coronavirus vaccines from America’s Pfizer and China’s Sinopharm to tourists.

The move is designed to attract visitors from countries that have supply constraints or where people find themselves at the back of a months-long queue or even no queue at all yet.

The vaccines are only available for holders of a visa issued by Abu Dhabi or holders of passports eligible for visa on arrival, according to the sheikhdom’s healthcare provider Seha.

Bruno Trenchard, senior manager of Hotels and Hospitality at CBRE Middle East investment consultancy, told Arabian Business it could open up a door for the emirate to promote vaccine tourism, but cautioned he did not expect to see a huge increase in regular tourists.

He told the outlet that Abu Dhabi investors have been considering developing medical tourism destinations in and around Abu Dhabi, and that Covid-19 vaccination tourism could be a start.

“However, we don’t anticipate this to bring a major push to tourism as Abu Dhabi is still relatively difficult to access for many tourists who need to quarantine on arrival, having both time and financial implications that not everyone can afford,” he said.

“As such, the incentive of the vaccine would be appealing mostly to well-off travellers from countries where the vaccine  is not easily available yet.”

He mentioned that the Pfizer vaccine is approved in many countries and so makes international travel easier while Sinopharm does not.

The UAE has one of the fastest Covid-19 vaccine rollouts in the world, with more than 14.5 million shots administered to its population of about 10 million.

Dubai, another emirate in the UAE and home to Emirates Airline, hasn’t so far announced any plan to provide vaccines to tourists.

Simpliflying.com reports that the Maldives, Russia and the US are also trying to set up some form of vaccine tourism.

For the adventurous, Alaska has already begun offering free-of-charge Covid-19 vaccines for those visiting ‘the Last Frontier’ in an attempt to aid the state’s summer tourism.

Since June 1, anyone aged 12 and above from anywhere in the world can get vaccinated at any of the state’s major airports.

“The idea is if we have excess vaccines, why not use them? So what we’re saying to our tourists is: if you come to Alaska, you get a free vaccination if you want one,” Governor Dunleavy told NPR.

Vaccinations offered by the state are of the Pfizer or Moderna variety. This means that in order to receive full protection, visitors must spend three or four weeks in Alaska.

Authorities say they are aware that this could be a limiting factor, but at least time-limited tourists can get their first shot before taking off for somewhere warmer.

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