Two of the major tour operators in the Australian market will make vaccinations compulsory for guests.
The Travel Corporation (TTC), owner of Contiki, Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, Inspiring Journeys and AAT Kings Guided Holidays, will require all travellers to be fully vaccinated by December 1, along with Australia and New Zealand based staff that deal with customers.
"We have sought and will continue to take advice, however put simply, it is the right thing to do," said TTC chief executive David Hosking. The company will also require guests on its trips in the US and Europe to be fully vaccinated from September 1.
TTC also announced it is suspending its tours of Australia and New Zealand until December, due to uncertainty around state border closures.
"The current operating environment has meant that most of our tours have been impacted by cancellations due to lockdowns and restrictions and we cannot deliver our usual high standard of guest experience," Mr Hosking said.
Meanwhile, travellers and tour leaders on escorted journeys overseas with Intrepid Travel will be required to be fully vaccinated from next month as part of a wider vaccine equity campaign by Australia's largest tourism company.
In an open letter this month, Intrepid's chief executive, James Thornton, said less than one per cent of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide had been delivered to low-income countries, a number that must be corrected to save lives, restart economies and rebuild the travel industry.
"We're taking this step because it's important to us that we make sure the communities we visit, our leaders and our travellers are safe and that we minimise, as much as possible, anyone's chances of travelling with and passing on COVID-19," Mr Thornton says.
The vaccine mandate does not currently apply to tours in Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands, given the countries already operate within such a strict border environment.
Intrepid's managing director, Brett Mitchell, says that pre-COVID, the company was operating in 130 countries. Tours are now running in about 20 countries including Iceland, Greece and the United States with operations in South America and Africa yet to resume.
"We have had hard and difficult discussions with clients who disagree [with the vaccination policy] but … we strongly believe it is the path to freedom," Mr Mitchell says.
Mr Mitchell is hopeful small group tours will resume in 2022 in countries such as South Korea and Japan, subject to respective governments' advice as well as consultation with staff on the ground.
He says as part of the company's equity campaign, it would introduce paid vaccination leave globally and provide education sessions, transport and accommodation for trekking porters in Peru so they could access mass vaccination centres.
The company's not-for-profit arm, the Intrepid Foundation, has also committed $100,000 to UNICEF Australia's Give the World a Shot fundraising campaign to assist with vaccine delivery.
Founded in Melbourne in 1989, Intrepid Travel is the largest small group adventure travel company in the world.
Meanwhile in the five-star hotel sector, the Crystalbrook Collection will join Qantas and Virgin Australia in their vaccine incentive initiatives by offering room upgrades to fully vaccinated guests.
The offer is open to those who stay at any of the group's seven properties in Queensland and NSW from Cairns down to Newcastle before December 20, 2021. The upgrade at Crystalbrook Byron would be from a rainforest suite to a treetop suite. At Crystalbrook Vincent in Brisbane, the vaccination upgrade would see a river room swapped for a promenade master room, for example.
Crystalbrook Collections chief executive Geoff York says the effects of ongoing lockdowns have been devastating to hotels, restaurants and bars and to the people within these industries.
"Offering an upgrade to guests who have vaccinated themselves against COVID-19 is a small gesture of thanks so that we can revive travel and hospitality."
Bookings must be made before October 31 using the code VAXED and guests must provide their Australian Government COVID-19 certificate on arrival.