In a harbour on the Greek island of Paxos, Panagiotis Mastoras checks over his fleet of pleasure craft and counts down the days to the return of the tourists who fuel the economy of the 13km speck in the Ionian Sea.
For the rental-boat skipper, the easing of travel curbs imposed as the Covid-19 outbreak swept the world appears tantalisingly close.
Greece said it would welcome back visitors starting on May 14, as long as they’ve had a vaccination, recovered from the novel coronavirus, or tested negative before flying out.
“It’s the safest way,” says Mastoras, one of 850,000 people working in a holiday sector that accounted for almost a quarter of Greece’s gross domestic product before the pandemic, the highest proportion in Europe.
Greece is at the forefront of a bid to revive travel with the help of so-called vaccine passports — certificates or digital cards testifying to the apparent low-risk status of their holders — which is gaining traction in tourist-reliant economies from the Caribbean to Thailand.
Businesses that have suffered a year-long battering from the pandemic are also coming to view the passes as a route to salvation.
The International Air Transport Association, which represents 290 carriers worldwide, estimates the industry could lose $95bn (€81bn) in cash in 2021 after already suffering the worst year on record.
So airlines have supported a number of tech solutions to verify passengers’ Covid vaccination or testing results, such as the IATA Travel Pass app, the AOKpass from French travel-security company International SOS, and the CommonPass, which is being developed by a Swiss nonprofit and the World Economic Forum.
A lack of standards could hinder such efforts. “There has been a lot of advocacy, but the execution has been sorely lacking,” says Jeffrey Goh, who heads the Star Alliance of 26 carriers including…