Booking Holdings CEO backs vaccine passports, says makes travel safer

ANASTASIA ZYG


As more people are immunized against the coronavirus, so-called vaccine passports would make it safer for people to travel, according to Glenn Fogel, the CEO of travel company Booking Holdings.

“I’m not sure why people still object to it, in terms of making it safer for people to travel,” Fogel said in an interview on CNBC’s “The Exchange.”

The Biden administration has indicated that it wants to set up a system of providing documentation of a person’s vaccination status, which can help make it easier to tell who’s protected against the virus and who’s not, but it’s unclear how this will play out at this time. Several airlines have also voiced their support for a way to document vaccinations.

However, there are critics of vaccine passports for a number of reasons, that range from privacy concerns to scientific reasons to equity issues.

But Fogel would like to see vaccinated people begin to travel again. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated people are at a “low risk” from travel.

“The industry has been so devastated, travel’s been so hurt by this terrible, tragic crisis, and we need every single thing that can help get [the travel industry] going and is allowing people to travel because [the vaccines] are absolutely proven to be safe.”

Booking Holdings owns brands such as Kayak, Agoda, Booking.com, Priceline.com and OpenTable.

“The idea of a Covid passport that says you’re fully vaccinated [means] you’re a safe traveler, you can go places where other people may not be allowed to go,” said Fogel.

On Monday, the company offered a $50 post-trip credit for travelers who book a trip by the end of May and travel before the year is over. The company also still offers increased flexibility to cancel travel plans if necessary. The promotion is aimed at getting people to start booking summer travel.

“We’re seeing prices starting to go up too, which of course is the assumption of demand, which is why I continue to advocate [people to] go out, look at what you want, go get it now,” Fogel said.

Rising vaccination rates will also help. Since the coronavirus vaccine distribution began in December, over 165 million doses have been administered to people in the United States, according to the CDC.

For now, Americans may be more comfortable traveling within the U.S. due to varying Covid restrictions, he said. According to a Booking.com survey, 69% of people said they would prefer to travel closer to home for the foreseeable future.

“There’s not going to be a huge amount of international travel,” he said. “In terms of people staying close to home, certainly there’s still that feeling of uncertainty and wanting to be close to home, but I think that’s going to extend out and as people feel safer to travel, they’ll start going for longer trips.”

Booking Holdings’ stock closed Monday up 1.1% at $2,409.18.



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