Vaccine passports and the service industries

Vaccine digital passport
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In todays news it seemed as though the UK government is indeed supporting efforts towards vaccine passports despite repeated denials from Gove, Johnson, and Zahawi. They evoke arguments of civil liberty infringements.. Meanwhile Airlines, large travel companies and event companies are indicating otherwise. IATA’s CEO Alexandre de Juniac confirmed “We will see, we should not anticipate but the UK authorities are among those with whom we have the closest link on this element.” – Asked about the idea on Friday, the prime minister’s spokesperson said: “There are still no plans to roll out vaccine passports. At the moment, going on holiday is illegal – but we will keep the situation under review.” Making comment on government disingenuousness or chicanery isn’t really our concern, but  it does look like vaccine passports are on the way. 

In this blog we look at what SMEs in the ski resorts can do to prepare for what seems to be an inevitability.  

A return to normal?

covid vaccine
Over 140 million vaccines have been administered in over 70 countries so far 10/2/21

Our already challenging times could potentially have more bumps in the road ahead.  The dystopian future of bio ID are being discussed and a vaccine passport is very much on the horizon.

Its clear that vaccine passport allowing for free travel to other countries or regions, will allow us to get back to normal economic activity. Should variants of the Covid get around current vaccines, then we may find passports could be a lifeline to businesses for the medium to long term.

With vaccine passports we will be able to run and attend events, reopen our hospitality industries fully without need of quarantine measures and testing. The adoption of vaccine passports will give customers a much needed return to sociability and staff will be able to return to workplaces.

Many national leaders are reticent to adopt vaccine passports on a national level however. Understandably, they are an incredibly thorny issue with concerns around civil liberties and even their effectiveness (It should be noted that no approved COVID-19 vaccine has yet been shown to prevent transmission of the virus).


Vaccine Passports the domain of the private sector?

Vaccine digital passport
Digital passport App and QR code

UK Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that immunity passports were not in government plans and on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday 7th February he went further saying they could even be “discriminatory”.   Vaccines are not compulsory in UK. There are many reasons for NOT taking a vaccine; some people have medical reasons, some have ethical reasons and many fear the speed of the vaccine roll-out means that taking them are a risk. There is also a long waiting list where the young are at the bottom. If the passports are brought in before everyone has had them then this would obviously be unfair, he said.

Here in France it is reported there could be as many as 58% of the population not willing to take the vaccine.  Understandable then that there is reticence from Macron for “le passeport Vaccinale” . He said the issue needs to be treated with “une grande prudence” – Vaccine passports are definitely a political ‘Patate Chaude’ on both sides of the channel.

Yet countries that rely on tourism like Greece and Cyprus are calling for them and Iceland (not in the EU) have adopted them already.  Airlines are already implementing vaccinated only crew staff policies and Etihad and Emirates plan on having a vaccine passport system up and running in the coming weeks for passengers.

Even if governments do not adopt a vaccine passport system at their borders, it is clear that they will help and support a private sector roll out from behind the curtain. For governments its less risky route to go down, Macron and Zahawi know this and it feels like they will let business take the cost and the risk and the political fall-out from it.

Passports for the Service Industries

Party Passports or Sociability Scanners anyone?

Very much on the frontline will be the service industries (Hospitality, Travel and Tourism and Events) and naturally ski resorts. Already badly hit by the current imposed restrictions, they are also among the most desperate to get back to normal. That desperation will be useful for governments, who will be able to claim plausible deniability to their electorate whilst letting the logistics, cost and risk to be shouldered by businesses.

It would seem illogical also that 10’s 000’s of individual businesses may end up replicating systems and controls that could be done on a national level and it feels unjust that governments abnegate to a certain degree their responsibility. There are also issues with standardisation and coherence with this strategy. Unions and associations will undoubtedly have a role to play should vaccine passports become desirable or necessary. They will be able to promote industry standard applications and systems, but only if they move quick enough. In addition, if vaccine passports are not legislated for and the choice is left with individual businesses. They may decide for a myriad of reasons not to adopt vaccination passport control . Are we to leave it to market forces and our reading of  customer trends to decide whether we are more attractive with a system for vaccine passports or without one?

Employment controls

Employment and vaccine passports is possibly an even thornier an issue. Can companies refuse to take on new staff if they are not vaccinated? What about existing staff wanting to return back to the workplace? What about employees not wanting to work with colleagues who aren’t vaccinated? and of course what about the willingness of front facing staff to serve non vaccinated patrons?

Since the arrival of Covid, businesses have implemented a raft of health and safety policies to deal with the spread of the disease.  Some of this policy is transferable across to the new “vaccinated” landscape. Some issues however are not and remain on the edges of our moral and ethical boundaries.

There are issues of discrimination already mentioned, there are also issues around data protection (can employers even ask for proof of vaccination or hold that information on record?).  Read more here. There is also the fact that people will just plainly refuse to take the vaccine for reasons good or bad and we will need to have it clear in our workplaces what we are going to do about that.

Possible applications

The Vaccine passports may well take the form of an App or possibly even by bio-metric identifiers, which opens a whole can of worms around data storage and security also.  The main area of concern is of course validly of the passport itself. Making a mock-up paper or electronic PDF fake is possible for anyone with a PC and a printer. At what point also in the client journey will the client provide the information? Will clients supply the information at the time of booking and then verify in person at a later stage?

With Iris scanner systems accessible for less that €1 000 (, big changes could come very quickly for our service industries. We could see ticketing of events or holiday/travel sales being controlled at point of sale via a digital wallet and then verified biometrically at access points (ports/airports/event entry). The immutable connection from booking to verification has to be made and thus data needs to be stored in the interim. Sensitive data. The systems will also require a blend of software and hardware. Clients may well have a digitally encrypted wallet containing their own health data.  Interoperability comes into play with verification of the information and storage of data on blockchain will assure its security. IBM have already launched systems for business where they state

 Privacy is central to the solution, and the digital wallet can allow individuals to maintain control of their personal health information and share it in a way that is secured, verifiable, and trusted. 

Clubs, bars and restaurants who have shorter but more frequent client visits, may be looking at quick scan QR codes upon arrival which could be on both paper or an app – but again their authenticity needs checking. Inevitably there will be multiple ways to do this, but it could make the landscape quite tricky to navigate, especially for smaller operators and resorts.

Decisions from Davos

For operators this is a risky set of decisions and it behoves us to be prepared. The first place to start is keeping up to date with the digital implications of the security of data and interoperability. The World Economic Forum has established the Common Trust directory for data storage and the Commons Trust Network for stakeholder interoperability. Understanding what is happening at a global level does light a path for SME’s to adapt things to their own benefits.

The Forum supports the emerging ecosystem of solutions, providers, and travel/health passes all aiming to restore cross-border mobility. The two registries can be leveraged by any other stakeholders committed to openness, interoperability and global standards.

The Common Trust Network is designed to:

    • Empower individuals with digital access to their health information so they can demonstrate their health status while protecting their data privacy.
    • Provide governments a trustworthy model for verification and acceptance of foreign lab tests and vaccination records, whether digital or paper-based.
    • Support airlines, airports, cruises, hotels, employers and venues to rely on a trusted health certificate without having to verify it themselves or hold any data.
    • Enable a clearer understanding of health entry requirements for destinations for all stakeholders involved

Its time to write a new risk assessment!

At Alps Integral we are already working with tourist offices, hospitality and events businesses and alerting them to the possible implications as well as looking at alternative digital solutions to what lies ahead. However it must be said our pragmatism is somewhat corralled by the risks this represents. We are fully aware of the sensitivities. Nevertheless we do advise to start now with preparations.

To get going here are 10 measures we can start to implement now. As mentioned before vaccination has not yet been proved to arrest contagion (but it is likely to), its uncertain whether this will even be necessary….. however we do advise to at least get the ball rolling and get some protocols in place for future decision making.

  1. Form and engage a crisis team and separate out responsibilities (employment, receiving guests, travel etc). Use a SWOT/CANVAS approach to draw out all the what ifs and possible responses.
  2. Refamiliarize yourselves with current labour laws and with discrimination laws in particular (for staff and customers)
  3. Create a network with industry peers and encourage them to move with you and share their findings
  4. Involve stakeholders from a wide a pool as possible. We are all learning at different speeds right now
  5. Open dialogue about these issue with local MPs, Town hall and unions
  6. Set yourself some Google alerts on key terms “vaccination passports” “vaccination passports for the events industry” “data protection and vaccination passports” – this is a changing landscape and we need to keep abreast of recent developments
  7. Set out a risk assessment for the particular outcome that, vaccine passports will be a thing.
  8. Sketch out a client journey/staff member journey to put yourself in their shoes, what questions and requirements might they have around this issue
  9. At some point it will be beneficial to post your policy so that employees and customers know where you stand. In many business this policy is changeable which should give you some breathing space to revisit the policy if needed
  10. Review your data security policy (if you are going to be receiving vaccination confirmation digitally). This will be once you know what format the passporting will take in your business.

After which policy ideas need to be considered and risk benefit analysis for digital/equipment investment will need to be considered.

Politics aside, your own personal views also aside, bear in mind it is not just a health and safety issue but a commercial decision.  Whether to adopt a vaccine passport system in your business or resort or not will dictate how customers chose you or your competition and so its worth understanding all the implications before moving forward.

We hope you found this piece constructive, at the end of the day we all need to move forward for each other. If you have any comments or would like to get in touch please do so by email to and

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