An open letter from Intrepid’s CEO: For travel to return, we need vaccine equity

Less than 1% of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide have been delivered to low-income countries, a number that needs to be corrected to save lives, restart economies and meaningfully rebuild the travel industry. That’s why Intrepid is stepping up its work to support global access to COVID-19 vaccines.

One of the most profound benefits of traveling is that it reminds me of how connected we all are; that we are part of a global community, no just a local. The more countries we visit, people we meet and communities we find ourselves in, the more our common similarity comes to light. It might sound a little cheesy, but it’s true.

The last trip I took before the pandemic put an end to travel (as we know it) was to Peru, where I visited Machu Picchu with my family. That trip was incredible for many reasons, but it was the people we met along the way and the immense kindness they showed us that made it a once in a lifetime trip. And that has been true for the most part wherever I have traveled in the world.

As challenging as the last year and a half has been, I believe the global community has demonstrated this capacity for kindness on a universal scale. Think about it: we stayed (and in some cases still do) indoors for weeks or months at a time to protect the most vulnerable among us. We have worn masks, received vaccines, checked in on each other, supported local businesses and created new ways of working and living. We have practiced kindness on a massive scale.

Now, as the global rollout of vaccines gathers pace, we have the opportunity to do so again.

Because while some countries are rolling out mass vaccination programs – I am privileged to have received both of my doses – this is unfortunately not the case for most of the world. In fact, less than 1% of vaccines have been delivered to low-income countries. But vaccines for the privileged simply won’t cut it. Billions of lives are still at risk.

That’s why this week Intrepid is launching our global vaccine equity campaignwhich focuses on three key actions: a commitment to raise AUD$100,000 through The Intrepid Foundation to support the global delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, improving vaccine access and education by mobilizing our networks on the ground, and introducing a mandatory vaccine policy on our trips.

Our vaccination policy requires all our travelers and tour guides to be fully vaccinated, effective September 1, 2021. We are taking this step because it is important to us that we ensure that the communities we visit, our guides and our travelers are safe and that we minimize as much as possible anyone’s chances of traveling with and passing on COVID-19.

I know that making something mandatory might not sit well with some people, but even before we introduced the policy we were already seeing vaccination rates on our trips of over 94%. And as a company that takes our responsibility to the communities we visit seriously, we have no choice. We need to keep everyone safe. It’s that simple.

Of course, it is easy to say that vaccinations are required, but with the uneven distribution of vaccines around the world, it is another thing to ensure that people can actually access vaccines. Our fundraising and advocacy campaign aims to support just that – fair and equal access to vaccines.

Intrepid’s philanthropic arm, The Intrepid Foundation, has committed to raising AUD$100,000 to support UNICEF Australia’s campaign via Give the world a shot appeal. This includes an up-front donation of AUD $50,000 which will immediately help provide COVID-19 vaccinations in countries around the world. UNICEF is the world’s largest distributor of vaccines and already vaccinates every second child on the planet. The organisation’s work will see two billion vaccine doses and one billion syringes delivered in 190 participating countries – including many where Intrepid Travel operates tours and has offices and staff – by the end of 2021.

We are also mobilizing our people in these countries.

In Peru, Intrepid has advocated for vaccine equity for remote communities, offering free transportation using our own vehicles to people living in the remote Sacred Valley to help them access a large vaccination center in Ollantaytambo. Our team has also worked with the local government to advocate for a vaccination center in Calca, where most of our Inca Trail porters live. As of early July 2021, none of the porters that Intrepid contracts on hikes had been vaccinated. By the end of July, 80% had received at least one dose. And with the memories of our Machu Picchu trip still fresh in my mind, I am grateful that we have been able to help our people in Peru in a small way in their fight against the virus.

Porters in Peru hold their vaccination forms
Terrified porters in Peru receive their COVID-19 vaccinations on July 30, 2021

And at our Colombo office in Sri Lanka, Intrepid hosted a Q&A session with Professor Neelika Malavige, a member of the World Health Organization’s Technical Advisory Committee and part of the Executive Committee of International Society of Infectious Diseases and the National Covid Vaccine Committee. Neelika educated the staff about vaccines and the critical role they play in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and spent time answering questions.

We know there’s a long way to go before we get through this, but returning to any kind of normal—or better yet, building a new, more compassionate normal—requires access to vaccines for all. I am proud to lead an organization that supports that goal. And I hope that you, our intrepid travelers, will support our goal of global vaccine equality because I know you feel the same compassion for our global community that we do.

Give todayGive the world a shot‘ via Intrepid Foundation.

Editor’s notes: this article was updated on 27 September 2021 to reflect that from 1 December 2021, Intrepid’s vaccine mandate policy covers Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands. As such, the policy is consistent across all journeys globally.

Related Posts