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"For travel to return, we need global vaccine equity": James Thornton, Intrepid CEO

Intrepid has stepped up advocacy on global vaccinations with on-the-ground support in remote communities, a $100,000 donation from its foundation to UNICEF Australia, and a mandatory vaccination policy for all travellers and tour leaders.

Intrepid has stepped up advocacy on global vaccinations with on-the-ground support in remote communities, a $100,000 donation from its foundation to UNICEF Australia, and a mandatory vaccination policy for all travellers and tour leaders.

Less than 1% of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide have been delivered to low-income countries, a number that Intrepid says must be corrected to save lives, restart economies, and meaningfully rebuild the travel industry.

That’s why the global travel company is stepping up its work to support global access to COVID-19 vaccines and CEO James Thornton was inspired to pen this open letter to the travel industry:

One of the most profound benefits of travelling is that it reminds me just how connected we all are; that we are part of a global community, not just a local one. The greater the number of countries we visit, people we meet, and communities we find ourselves in, the more our commonality comes to light. It might sound a bit 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 that trip once-in-a-lifetime. And that has been true, for the most part, wherever I’ve travelled 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, are still staying) indoors for weeks or months at a time in order to protect the more vulnerable among us.

We have been wearing masks, receiving vaccines, checking in on one another, supporting local businesses, and creating new ways of working and living. We have been practicing kindness on a massive scale.

Now, as the global vaccine rollout picks up pace, we have an opportunity to do it again.  

Because while some countries are rolling out mass vaccination programs — I’m privileged to have received both of my doses — that is sadly 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.

James Thornton, CEO Intrepid Travel
James Thornton, CEO Intrepid Travel

That’s why Intrepid has launched its global vaccine equity campaign, which focuses on three key actions: a commitment to raise AUD $100,000 via The Intrepid Foundation to support the global delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, improving vaccine access and education by mobilising our on-the-ground networks, and the introduction of a mandatory vaccine policy on all trips.*

Intrepid’s vaccination policy will require all* of our travellers and tour leaders to be fully vaccinated, effective September 1, 2021.

It is taking this step because it’s important to the people of Intrepid that they make sure the communities they visit, their leaders and their travellers are safe and that they minimise, as much as possible, anyone’s chances of travelling with and passing on COVID-19.

“I know that making anything compulsory may not sit well with some people, but even before we introduced the policy, we were already seeing vaccination rates on our trips of more than 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 as simple as that.

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

Porters in Peru holding their vaccination forms
Intrepid porters in Peru receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations on July 30, 2021. Image: Intrepid

“We know there is a long way to go until 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 everyone. 

“I am proud to lead an organisation that is supporting that goal. And I hope that you, our Intrepid travellers, will be supportive of our goal of global vaccine equity, because I know you feel the same compassion for our global community as we do,” Thornton concluded.

Through its donation and as a member of the COVID Vaccination Alliance of UNICEF Australia, along with the likes of Qantas and eBay, Intrepid will help power the largest and fastest vaccination operation for humanity with the hope of putting an end to the pandemic.

To support the safe reopening of tourism, Intrepid has introduced mandatory vaccination* for all travellers and tour leaders from 1 September 2021.

Intrepid says this vaccination policy overlays a comprehensive health and safety approach, which follows all local regulations and requirements. More than 94 per cent of travellers on Intrepid trips since May 2021 have been fully vaccinated. 

Intrepid is also asking its community to support UNICEF Australia’s campaign by giving to ‘Give the World a Shot’ via The Intrepid Foundation.

One hundred per cent of donations given to The Intrepid Foundation will go to supporting UNICEF’s work delivering COVID-19 vaccines to some of the most vulnerable and most disadvantaged countries around the world. 

*Excludes Australia, NZ and Cook Islands due to the very low-risk environment due to strict government lockdowns and other restrictions, including on travel.