If you ask the International Air Transport Association, in future you'll be carrying a book of personal vaccine information and test results on holiday. If you ask Beijing it will be a pixelated square of QR codes. There is little consensus. However, one thing is for certain: the current leather-bound passport, we all know is about to get an overhaul for post pandemic travel.
Last Friday, Chinese President General Secretary Xi Jinping tuned into the G20 summit with a suggestion for QR bar-code based travel permits. The proposal that other countries could adopt a Chinese system of "internationally accepted QR codes" was reported by state-run news agency Xinhua, as a way in which the movement of goods and people might resume between China and its international partners.
While details of the app were sparse, the suggestion that China might be put in charge of running the rails of an international heath and travel database was met with scepticism. Critics of the country's record on privacy and human rights were quick to say such passports could be used as a "Trojan Horse" for "political monitoring and exclusion."
However, the point is moot; the current information carried by travellers is not sufficient to keep future pandemics in check. Digital databases or additional travel documents may become as vital as the passports we are used to travelling on.
IATA – the International Air Transport Association – which represents airlines around the world said that is in the final stages of developing its own "Travel Pass" to store details of screening and immunity tests for Covid-19.
Eventually, as the much awaited vaccines become available to the public, it may become the standard for checking whether air passengers have been immunised against the disease and provide a way to bypass lengthy and costly quarantine programmes.
After Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said it would be requiring international customers to have been vaccinated pre-travel – IATA's "health passport" would provide a framework for doing that.
IATA represents 82 per cent of total air traffic worldwide. The Association, which is currently holding its 76th annual general meeting for stakeholders, is naturally keen to get the details of a "Health Pass" ironed out as soon as possible.
Calling the coronavirus the "deepest crisis it has ever faced," IATA members have struggled amid border closures and restrictions that have "virtually eliminated demand for international air travel."
At the current AGM the airlines body said its Travel Pass provided a way to "manage and verify the secure flow of necessary testing or vaccine information among governments, airlines, laboratories and travellers."
Perhaps passengers are more comfortable with a "digital health passport" that is developed by airlines rather than state actors – particularly by countries other than their own.
Privacy and concerns over who has access to health information are likely to surround any database used for international travel, says Raina MacIntyre, head of the Biosecurity Research Program for the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.
"For travel to approach anything like it was prior to Covid, then some kind of international standard that is easy to obtain, easy to use, secure, and protective of privacy will be necessary," McIntyre told CNN Travel.
As for the surrender of private information to foreign governments?
"That may be the price to pay for travel," she says.