Travel after a long wait!

May 08, 2021
Travel after a long wait!

Hussein Shobokshi

WITH a mixed feeling of hope and anxiety, the world is looking forward to the gradual reopening of international borders, allowing freedom of travel, movement and tourism in different countries and continents. This comes after a spike in the overall rates of vaccination in a large number of countries, making the expected positive impact on the psychological and economic arenas.

Travel and movement is a natural right of human beings, and hence laws, constitutions and legislations have approved and protected it in various forms in most countries of the world.

With the passage of time, the concept of travel and movement has transformed from its simple form into a complex one amid a sprawling tourism industry where millions of people work and billions of dollars are invested.

Tourism, in its broad and comprehensive concept, achieves many positive elements in the economic aspect, as it generates scores of job opportunities and provides opportunities to improve seasonal income.

Tourism is the fastest and the best opportunity to achieve a fair distribution of surplus income when a country is witnessing economic growth. There is a big difference between growth and fair distribution of income, and perhaps the best and most beautiful description of that matter is what the late Egyptian thinker and economist Dr. Galal Amin had observed when he described the emerging vibrant Brazilian economy: “The country is fine, but the people are tired.”

The system of travel, movement and tourism does not bring about rapid employment and raise the level of income for the youth in particular at least for the time being, but this system is the largest consumer and thus influences market demand in relation to the price of oil in the world. Several vital sectors, such as airlines, hotels, resorts, restaurants and tourism hold their breath during the current pandemic period. These sectors await the initial reaction to travel reservations and turnout for them, and whether people will break the barrier of fear, anxiety and caution and make them return to what they were before, or whether the psychological component of panic and the desire to feel safe will be the predominant one.

There is an increasing human right talk about the extent of the “legality” of the proposed digital health passport, in which it has been proven that the travelers received the required vaccine or acquired immunity through recovery after infected with the virus. This is attributed to the concerns of some right activists that the proposed electronic passport could constitute a dangerous precedent that will create a fertile ground for a great level of discrimination against non-vaccinated people and prevent them from exercising their natural right to travel, movement and tourism. This is a legal approach that the people of the Western world take very seriously and importantly.

The upcoming summer season will be a great trial balloon to test the seriousness of the health protocols adopted by those countries that decided to open their doors and borders to receive visitors and tourists. In the meantime, it is not to be disregarded the fact that there are many countries such as India and South Africa and Brazil that are witnessing a big surge in infections and their health sectors are unable to deal with the crisis.

These protocols are practical evidence that the world is ready to open the economy after long and painful months that tended to exhaust resources and wipe out incomes in an unprecedented way. However, there is concern and fear over the virus mutations that are spreading fast, leaving behind huge lines of victims with the announcement of each and every new mutant.

In the past months, travel, movement and tourism were taking place in very small and limited numbers, which kept the possible damage under control in general, but this does not confirm the continuation of the same situation with the anticipated new great openness.

Divergent views are being articulated by scientists, doctors, economists and jurists pertaining to the decision to open out for travel, mobility and tourism. Each and every one of them makes an argument according to his specialization and draws attention to the dangers and caveats according to his own point of view. In my opinion, the point of view of each one of them has to be valued and respected, but at the same time, the highest stake remains for the people who wish to have the right and choice to travel, move and tour, and the decision, in this case, shall be theirs.

The world has gone through a painful, heavy and costly phase in its long confrontation with COVID-19 virus, but the importance of continuing to deal with the virus remains very cautious because the battle with it is still going on. The world has decided to save the economy and grant people the right to practice travel, mobility and tourism.

The battle with the virus continues and is not yet over. People used to say in the past that there are seven benefits for travel, and an eighth benefit can be added to them, which is the ability of people to deal with the global pandemic seriously and respectfully.

This article was originally published in Asharq al-Awsat.

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