Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

If health-monitoring wearable devices are a requirement to visit a destination, many clients likely won't bite, travel advisors say.

As destinations begin opening their borders once again, some are mulling the use of technology to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. In the Cayman Islands, that technology takes the form of a wearable health monitor called the BioButton from medical device company BioIntelliSense.

A BioButton, shown with a phone and coin for scale.
A BioButton, shown with a phone and coin for scale.

A mandate for visitors to affix devices to their bodies is viewed by some as a possible high-tech solution to contain the spread of Covid-19 and restart tourism economies.

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The button, about the size of a half dollar and worn on the chest, monitors wearers for key health metrics, like temperature and respiratory rate. Using those metrics and a daily health survey, it will generate a green pass if the user is cleared and considered healthy. The BioButton can also be used for contact tracing, as it monitors which other BioButton wearers a person comes into proximity with and for how long, but it does not track a user's location.

Travel advisors predicted that having a wearable monitor would be a deal-breaker for clients.

"The majority of my clients didn't even want the hassle of having to be tested within a few short days of arrival and/or risking being quarantined for 14 days if rapid tests performed upon arrival were positive," said Margie Hand, an Andavo Travel affiliate based in Birmingham, Ala.

Indeed, advisors have found destinations' requirements to secure negative Covid-19 tests before arrival problematic, especially as the amount of time it takes to get test results is impacted by a number of factors.

While Hand said she planned to talk to her clients about the possibility of wearing a health monitor, most would not be interested, she believes.

"I honestly do not think that a majority of my clients will be receptive to this," she said. "I have some clients that are ready to travel but are choosing to wait for not only safety but also because there are so many hoops to jump through and they feel it will take some of the pleasure out of travel for them."

Becca Clark, a travel advisor with Atlanta, Ga.-based Epperly Travel, agreed that a monitor would be a hurdle for some.

"I can absolutely see some travelers ruling out a destination because of wearable devices and putting it on the back burner for another trip down the line," Clark said.

Often, travelers want to travel to escape real-life problems, like the coronavirus. While clients might be more receptive to pre-departure requirements, like testing and temperature checks, many want to forget about Covid-19 once in a destination, according to Clark. A health monitor would impede on their ability to do so.

However, Clark also thinks monitors might hold appeal for some travelers.

"I think feelings would be split," she said, "as some travelers would see it as more of an unknown that causes an added layer of hesitation to travel, while others may see it as an added layer of protection for them and those around them while traveling."

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