Several countries are announcing plans for a mobile travel pass to allow for a long-awaited boost to the global economy and the restart of major events.
It makes sense to use a mobile travel pass but there will, inevitably, be a downside. Probably a few.
The most obvious downside to any travel pass is that it will fuel existing inequalities. Richer, technically advanced (and vaccinated) countries will be the winners in attracting visitors and investment, while less advanced countries will suffer. Their vaccine programmes are already lagging far behind, and they are concentrating on getting hold of a vaccine and getting it rolled out. It will be a while before they can turn their attention to vaccine certificates.
Another downside that a certificate or mobile travel pass will amplify is that it will discriminate against people who refuse the offer of a vaccine on religious or other grounds. When will these groups be able to travel? Will they have to wait months or years before they can venture out?
Then there is the issue of technology. Many countries’ systems that were relied on to manage appointments, treatments and self-isolation instructions have proved less than ideal. The US and the UK cobbled together systems that took months to be good enough to cope. Other countries, such as South Korea and Singapore, did much better.
Will these systems be fit to distribute a mobile travel pass, and will the efforts be coordinated with other efforts, internationally?
The South Korean version of a mobile travel pass is being built on a blockchain which bodes well. The Singapore solution is being coordinated with IATA, and this effort is being tested and considered by several airlines.
Overall the concept of a mobile travel pass makes sense, but sadly there are bound to be a host of teething problems, which will delay the release from lockdown for many frustrated travellers and allow countries such as South Korea and Singapore to get a head start in opening up their economies to an international audience.