Vaccination rollout has been pinpointed as the catalyst for the recovery of international travel. However, the perceived high pricing of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing could hinder travel demand growth.

For many, a vaccination or Covid-19 tests at multiple stages of the traveller journey are now the requirements needed for outbound trips in the short term. It will take a considerable amount of time for the entirety of a population to be vaccinated. Therefore, multiple tests may be needed for a while.

Prices for Covid-19 PCR tests do vary but can dramatically increase the cost of a trip. Research by Which in April 2021 found that the average price of one PCR test costs £120 ($166) in the UK. Even having to take two tests during a trip would rack up expenditures dramatically, making the urge for an international getaway further delayed in 2021 and going into 2022. This calls for yet more sector collaboration to bring costs down and make holidays more accessible for general travellers.

Budgets have been tightened

The knock-on effect of Covid-19 has tightened budget constraints for many. GlobalData’s Q1 2021 survey* found that 50% of global respondents ‘completely’ or ‘somewhat’ agreed they have reduced household budgets in the last year. 54% (‘completely’/ ‘somewhat’) are also now following a strict weekly/monthly budget, highlighting that the added expenditure on PCR tests would make international travel a no-go for many in 2021.

Family outbound travel could be heavily impacted here. Even if some older individuals of the family are vaccinated and won’t have to pay for any form of Covid-19 testing, those aged under 18 are still likely to have to pay for a test, not just one, but multiple. As a result, parents will have to pay, further racking up expenditures which will not be welcomed.

Collaborative effort will be needed

TUI is the first to make a bold move by reducing the costs of testing for international travel. 6 May 2021 saw the operator announce it planned to offer Covid-19 PCR tests for £20 for UK tourists travelling to countries on the government’s ‘green list’ (to be announced 17th May). In partnership with government authorised test provider Chronomics, TUI’s management declared plans to make this summer as ‘easy and affordable’ as possible.

This is a well-played strategic move from the tour group, demonstrating that the cost of testing for Covid-19 can be considerably cut if partnerships are formed. More operators and airlines should be collaborating with authorised test providers to make travel more accessible in this ongoing, uncertain situation.

(*) GlobalData’s Q12021 consumer survey –10,122 global respondents

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