"Hopefully there will be a proof-of-vaccination piece of paper that people can use to be able to get on a plane without having to be tested or without having to quarantine," Branson said. 

By Cailey Rizzo
January 20, 2021
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Leaders across the travel industry are becoming more vocal about the development and potential impact of vaccine passports. 

In an interview with CNBC this week, Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, said that he believed that vaccination — and then proof of vaccination — would allow businesses to reopen and the travel industry to begin its post-COVID recovery. 

"Vaccination is everything," Branson said. "Once vulnerable people, in particular, have been vaccinated, I think all kinds of businesses can start opening up again: restaurants, travel companies, cruise companies." 

Branson then went on to speak about how the travel industry could use the vaccination, including the possibility of a vaccine passport, to recover from the COVID slump. 

"Hopefully there will be a proof-of-vaccination piece of paper that people can use to be able to get on a plane without having to be tested or without having to quarantine," Branson said. 

Richard Branson
Richard Branson
| Credit: Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Several businesses have already talked about the possibility of vaccine passports in reopening travel around the world.

American Airlines announced that a health passport app will be made available to passengers on Jan. 23. With the app, travelers can upload test results and any documentation required to travel.

However, a seamless vaccine passport might not be reality until 2022. Companies will have to leap over hurdles like communication between countries and potential privacy issues. 

CNBC has also reported that tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple are interested in creating a vaccine passport.

Meanwhile, Virgin's travel businesses are responding to the crisis. Last year, Virgin Atlantic announced it would give passengers free COVID-19 insurance for flights until March 31, 2021. And Virgin's new cruise line Virgin Voyages delayed its inaugural voyage and announced new COVID-19 protocol for when sailings resume. 

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.