Last year, 2020, was the year when COVID-19 ravaged the world and devastated the tourism sector.
But in 2021, though coronavirus is still effecting our lives, there is hope for the future as scientists around the world have developed and tested effective, safe vaccines in record time.
This will be the biggest vaccination campaign in history, and it will protect our communities, allow countries to re-open, and kickstart international travel again.
But we already know that some countries will be able to vaccinate their populations faster, and thus get back to normal ahead of the rest of the world.
Bloomberg is keeping track of all the vaccine purchase agreements and the roll-out of vaccination programmes and estimates that 8.33 billion doses have already been ordered.
As of January 15 2021, more than 35 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given, in 49 countries. As you would expect, there is a strong correlation between wealthy countries with good healthcare infrastructure and those which have pre-purchased large quantities of vaccines and have been able to start delivering them to people.
If you are planning to travel internationally this year or next (especially if you are going to fly), the chances are that you will need to have been vaccinated and be visiting a country which is also well advanced in the roll-out of its own vaccine campaign.
These will be the safest places to go, with the fewest additional travel restrictions, and will be easiest to get travel insurance for.
So which countries are leading the way in COVID-19 vaccinations?
Canada has already ordered enough doses to vaccinate its whole population three times over and is planning to donate those it doesn’t need to poorer countries through the World Health Organization.
Canada has already vaccinated about 460,000 people, prioritising those over 70, healthcare workers, and those living or working in care homes.
Other major buyers of vaccines include the UK – England is on target to complete vaccinations of the most vulnerable by mid-February – Australia and New Zealand, the EU, Israel, and the USA, all of whom have enough doses ordered to vaccinate their entire populations.
There are also some surprises on the list, too: two developing countries with significant tourism appeal, Mexico and Uzbekistan, have already ordered 119% and 110% respectively of their total vaccine requirements.
Of course, you don’t just need to order vaccines: you need to distribute and administer them, too. So far, the USA, China, and EU have vaccinated more citizens than anyone else, but that’s in part a reflection of their larger population size. In terms of the percentage of the population vaccinated, Israel tops the charts (23%), followed by the UAE (14%), Bahrain (7%), and the UK (5%).
Start planning for your future travels
To help you start planning your COVID safe travels for 2021 and beyond, here are a few ideas for future travels in countries which are ahead of the vaccination curve and will be welcoming tourists safely again soon.
Canada’s landscapes are wildly beautiful, and the national parks are perfect for social distancing. We have rounded up the Top 10 things to do and see in Western Canada, and also recommend A non-skiers guide to Whistler.
For a combination of culture and sunshine on a shorter haul trip, Israel and Bahrain will both be high on our COVID-safe travel list this year. Find out more about vibrant Tel Aviv, often described as “the party capital of the Middle East” in our Travel guide to Tel Aviv, Israel, or learn about the ancient undersea activity of Pearl diving in Bahrain.
Uzbekistan: The heart of the Silk Road offers plenty of UNESCO treasures such as the museum city of Khiva, but is also offering a COVID-free guarantee of $3,000 to tourists who visit the country on organised tours. This kind of incentive is likely to build confidence, especially in combination with the country’s large scale vaccination scheme.
Happy trip planning, and bon voyage!