Rise of vaccination tours stir corporate interest


Private vaccination tours launched recently by Indonesian and Thai outbound specialists have attracted the attention of employers keen to send their top executives for a jab overseas, and skip lengthy vaccination waitlists at home.

Suthiphong Pheunphiphop, president of both Glory Travel (Thailand) and the Thai Travel Agents Association, told TTGmice that big companies in Thailand have started to ask for overseas vaccination trips for their management staff and executives, and the higher cost of travel today bears little deterrence.

Some companies are looking into vaccination tours which could help some of their employees get ahead in the vaccination queue, but costs are high

“The cost of travel to some destinations has doubled today, mainly from pricier airfares and longer travel period, compared to pre-pandemic times,” remarked Suthiphong.

“If Thailand fails to achieve vaccination targets over the next three to four months as planned, more business leaders and executives will be sent abroad to get vaccinated,” added Suthiphong.

Suthiphong noted that more countries – such as Germany, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and France – are opening up to “walk-in visitors” who are in search of Covid-19 vaccines. Some states in the US are also welcoming, while Russia and Maldives have earlier indicated their welcome for vaccine seekers.

In late-April, Bangkok-based See You Again Co travel company created a vaccination tour package to take private groups and individual travellers to Serbia for the Covid-19 vaccination, in response to eager expressions of interest from its regular customers.

According to Netnapa Kaewsangtham, executive director of See You Again Co, these vaccination tours will commence as soon as the hospitals in Serbia are ready.

While Thai corporate interest in vaccination tours is mounting, Netnapa said such trips to other destinations may be more difficult to arrange due to medical visa requirements, as well as necessary approvals from relevant authorities.

Indonesian outbound operators that have crafted vaccination vacations to the US are also predicting difficulties in fulfilling corporate interest.

Many operators told TTGmice that the programmes are only suitable for individual travellers. The US vaccination programme stipulates that foreign passport holders must arrive in the US and complete their own registration, and travel agencies are not allowed to reserve vaccines on behalf of their clients.

Furthermore, legal issues are likely to complicate corporate vaccination tour arrangements, warned Agustinus Pake Seko, president director of Bayu Buana Travel Services. “We have yet to learn of the Indonesian government’s response to citizens seeking vaccines overseas on their own,” he said.

Another obstacle to corporate vaccine tours is the lengthy stay needed to fulfil gaps between the first and second shots.

Yento Chen, CEO of Destination Tour, said Johnson & Johnson vaccines could work for corporate incentive groups, as only one shot is required and the tour would need just six days. However, he noted that news has surfaced about the possible cessation of Johnson & Johnson vaccine production.

Tours involving the two-jab Pfizer vaccine would require clients to stay at least 24 nights in the US. This would be too expensive for corporates and few employers will sit well with staff being gone for a month, opined Chen. – Additional reporting by Kurniawan Ulung

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