Tour Operators Struggle with Growing Vaccine Passport Scams

November 16, 2021

Growing vaccine passport scams are a huge problem for tour operators. Several destinations across the globe have reopened lately, and proof of full vaccination is the most common requirement to enter a country.

Despite imposing rules to be fully inoculated before joining a trip, the issue of figuring out people’s actual vaccination status has been a headache for many businesses.

Melissa DaSilva, the US president of Trafalgar Tours, said, “We do not have any way of verifying if the (US Centers for Disease Control vaccination) card is fraudulent.” Trafalgar Tours has required all travelers to be fully inoculated against Covid-19 since September 1st.

Many Companies’ Policies Rely on Guests’ Honesty

Trafalgar’s vaccine policy depends mainly on their guests’ words about vaccination. The company’s clients need to sign a travel declaration confirming that they are inoculated, have not been in contact with anyone who tested positive for Covid-19, or tested positive for the disease themselves within 14 days of traveling.

At the beginning of the trip, people show their CDC vaccination card to an employee who verifies it and records they have looked at it. DaSilva said, “But no other information is kept.”

The Globus family of brands, the parent company of four tour operators, operates in the same way as Trafalgar. Globus’s Chief Marketing Officer Steve Born said their health and safety checks followed those in place at airlines and imposed by destination arrival authorities. But rules for verifying the reliability of vaccine cards can be very different in each country.

The President of the Massachusetts-based tour operator Marathon Tours & Travel Jeff Adams seconds that. He said, “The contrast between countries, cities, hotels, and races has been dramatic over my travels over the last six years.”

He cited an instance of traveling to Germany where gate agents at US airports didn’t realize that Janssen was the name of the approved vaccine Johnson & Johnson.

And Adams added, “There’s a number of layers of travel protocols. It’s like learning a new language.”

Complying with Regulations

Many travelers use apps to prove they are not part of vaccine passport scams. But Adams said, “There isn’t a good one size fits all app.” Hence, he tells his clients to get photo backups on their devices, such as phones and iPads, to ensure they can still prove the vaccination status if the card goes astray or is stolen.

Likewise, Adams must comply with regulations, mainly because, according to Adams, there is a hierarchy of those making requirements. “Is the country requiring this? Yes, or no?” he said.

He gave an example of where he had to provide a master list of guests for events at hotels, such as a pre-race dinner or a post-race party. He had to mention his customers’ vaccine statuses and name the administered vaccines, which he found stressful.

Adams said, “For us to provide that information, it was kind of redundant.” But many tour operators will be happy to tolerate such hassles. He added, “For our clients, it was not an issue. They were happy to be traveling again.”

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