The world's first flight carrying passengers with a digital health passport that certifies they don't have COVID-19 will fly to the Canary Islands this summer.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (WTO) is working alongside officials in Spain to share and develop measures to revive tourism in a safe and sustainable way, including traceability systems and precautions to protect people from the coronavirus. In a statement, Yaiza Castilla, the Canary Islands' tourism minister, confirmed "the necessary steps are being taken so that passengers can travel with ease" after announcing plans for the health passport test flight.
Departing in July, all passengers on board the pioneering flight will carry a digital health passport, which is a mobile app developed by the Canary Islands' company Hi+ Card and researchers from Spain's Tourism Data Driven Solutions (TDDS). The app stores medical records validated by government health departments and will allow passengers to travel "safely, traceably and with immutability of [their] data", according to a statement from the TDDS CEO, Antonio López de Ávila.
"Passengers on the flight will carry a unique digital profile on their smartphones, where a health entity, accredited by the Ministry of Health, uploads medical information," he explained. "This means the possibility of creating false profiles or manipulating medical records is avoided."
Read more: What are health passports and will they help you travel again?
It has not yet been confirmed what island the test flight will land on, nor its departure point. However, the Canary Islands' tourism board noted that if the flight is a success the scheme could be rolled out across other holiday destinations. A number of Greek and Italian islands, including Santorini, Crete and Capri, are also considering the introduction of health passports for international arrivals.
The news comes as Ms Castilla told local media she wants to make the Canary Islands "a world laboratory for tourism safety", revealing that Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote will undergo extensive renovations to keep locals and visitors safe from the coronavirus. Infection rates in the islands have managed to stay low and officials are hopeful that tourism could reopen to locals this summer, followed by residents from mainland Spain and then international visitors later in the year, according to a report from Canary Islands Statistic Institute (ISTAC).
"In these exceptional times, in which the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world economy and threatened our tourism sector, innovation becomes the cornerstone of the recuperation," WTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvii said in regard to health passport flight. "The trips will no longer be as before. Rather, they will become safer and more sustainable to continue providing benefits to nations and communities."