The world’s largest adventure travel company and certified B Corp is advocating for the safe return of international travel and improved access to COVID-19 vaccinations in low-income countries around the world.
Current data shows only 0.3 percent of doses worldwide have been administered in low-income countries (with some estimating it may take another two years for the vaccine to reach the masses in many developing countries) — a number that must be corrected if we are to restart economies, and meaningfully rebuild global tourism.
Intrepid Travel, long an industry leader when it comes to sustainable tourism, has continued to lead the charge in conscientiously rebuilding the industry post-COVID — since the onset of the pandemic, it launched an open-source guide to help travel businesses decarbonize their operations and over 40 low-carbon tour options of its own. Now, Intrepid’s global vaccine-equity campaign will focus on three pillars: improving vaccine access and education, mandating vaccines for travelers and tour leaders, and a donation (via its philanthropic arm, The Intrepid Foundation) to support global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Access & education
Intrepid is mobilizing its 23 operational offices across five continents to offer on-the-ground support, ranging from logistical and transportation resources to training and education. Examples include:
In Cusco, Peru, Intrepid is offering free transportation to a vaccination hub for trekking porters and their families, as well as accommodation. Intrepid’s Deputy Operations Manager, Maritza Chacacanta, also advocated for a new site to be opened closer to the porters’ communities. At the start of July 2021, Intrepid had 0 percent of porters vaccinated. When the new site opened in Calca, that number had jumped to 80 percent by August 1.
In Sri Lanka, to help address vaccine hesitancy, Intrepid’s Regional General Manager of Asia, Anu Karunatilaka — who is based in Colombo — hosted an information and Q&A session with Professor Neelika Malavige, a member of the World Health Organization’s technical advisory committee and the International Society of Infectious Diseases, to provide tour guides with access to quality information and education about COVID-19 vaccines.
Globally, Intrepid has also offered paid vaccination leave to make it easier for all staff to receive vaccinations as soon as they are eligible.
The Intrepid Foundation has committed to raise AUD $100,000 for UNICEF Australia, including an upfront kickstart donation of AUD $50,000 to its "Give the World a Shot" fundraising appeal. UNICEF is leading the largest-ever vaccine procurement and supply operation on behalf of the Global COVAX Facility, which will see two billion vaccine doses delivered in 190 countries to those who need them most by the end of 2022. 100 percent of donations will go towards universal access to COVID-19 vaccines, supporting COVAX in its mission to vaccinate 30 percent of the global population by the end of 2021.
Intrepid has introduced a new mandatory vaccination policy for all travelers and tour leaders from September 1, 2021.* Until now, Intrepid required either proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours. Intrepid understood that moving to a vaccine mandate for trips would only be possible with additional commitments to ensure tour leaders and the communities they visit are given equal access to vaccines (*the vaccine mandate excludes limited local travel in Australia and New Zealand, due to strict government lockdowns and international border closures).
“We are introducing a global vaccine mandate to not only ensure the safety of our travelers but the safety of our tour leaders, their families and the communities that we visit,” says Intrepid CEO James Thornton. “Unfortunately, the reality is that access to vaccines is not equal globally; and we cannot responsibly require leaders to be vaccinated if we don’t also help to advocate and improve their access to them.
“Intrepid was founded on ideals of inclusivity and equality; and the entire travel industry must step up to acknowledge and act on the current inequalities that persist around global access to COVID-19 vaccines. Ending the pandemic is not only about you and your vaccine,” Thornton added. “Just because travelers are vaccinated and ready to explore doesn’t mean that communities are vaccinated and ready to host you. Together, we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone can safely and fairly access vaccinations in every country around the world.”