Jean Viard is a sociologist, research director at the CNRS and member of the National Tourism Council. Her work focuses on vacations and travel. For him, if it is true that “our freedoms decline from the moment when States accept the precautionary principle”, possible reservations about a health passport do not weigh very heavily against the desire to rebuild social ties such as culture, urban leisure or travel.
Will the health passport raise opposition?
Tomorrow, travelers will be ready to accept new rules. We have all understood that this virus and global warming are the same thing. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have accepted the rules because we are afraid of the disease and because no one wants to transmit it to the other. For those traveling as a family, the first concern is the safety of the children.
However, the health pass aims at more security and it is not by chance that the Greeks were the first to implement it, given their exposure to tourism. The states of northern Europe, which are tourist-sending countries, grumbled at first, before realizing that they could not go to the southern countries without a pass. In any case, if we do not put this document in place, we will have 48 different rules depending on the country.
Do you not nevertheless see in it a limitation of certain freedoms, including that of moving around?
It will not be a control so different from that which is already required for yellow fever. It is true, however, that our freedoms decline when States accept the precautionary principle. The basic question that arises is: after the health crisis, will governments be ready to give us back all our freedoms before the pandemic.
What lessons do you draw from this period during which travel was non-existent or reduced to a strict minimum?
We are at the moment in an interesting period, since we see what an under-tourist society is. We have stopped culture, travel and urban leisure and we realize that these are the essential places of social connection. In Paris, if there are so many restaurants and bars, it is because more than half of the customers are foreigners. And as we are at state zero right now, it shows us how essential tourism and culture are. They represent 20% of employment. France is a country that receives more tourists than it has inhabitants and in which 60% of residents go on vacation between three and five times a year. In 1968, there were 60 million international tourists worldwide. In 2019, there were 1.2 billion and we are aiming for 2 billion in ten years. In France, the political objective was 100 million tourists, whereas we are at 70 million. Our societies have been rebuilt around travel.
Will there be an explosion in travel demand when borders reopen?
The primary audience for international travel is intra-family travel. Clearly, those whose family resides in Africa or the United States. 3 million French people who live outside the borders have hardly seen their loved ones for a year. Business tourism, on the other hand, will suffer in particular from telework and its legitimization. The question of very short trips will arise. Are we going to agree to go to New York for the weekend? I think not. There is already a rule: more planes when a train connection exists in less than two and a half hours.
Will travel destinations change?
In place-finding tourism, the problem is to reduce density. We can no longer all go to Venice at the same time. The regulation of tourist flows must result from this pandemic and the digital pass will make it possible to regulate these flows. Muslims already accept this mode of operation for pilgrimages to Mecca. We have a historic opportunity: tourism has stopped and we are now ready to accept new rules.
Finally, behind the pandemic, we must not forget that there was already the fear of attacks. And so that, from Egypt to Morocco, tourist numbers have been declining for fifteen years.