UNWTO urges governments to restart international tourism

The global Covid-19 vaccination rollout coupled with digital solutions for safe travel should lead to a rise in international mobility

According to the latest data from the UN’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the global Covid-19 vaccination rollout and increased adoption of digital solutions for safe travel should lead to a rise in international mobility, and yet progress is stalling as some governments continue to advise against all non-essential travel.

The newest edition of the Travel Restrictions Report from the agency states that, in June 2021, 29% of all destinations worldwide still had their borders closed to international tourism. Of these, more than half have been closed to tourists since May 2020 or earlier.

Asia and the Pacific, the region which continues to have the highest level of travel restrictions in place, recorded the largest decrease in international arrivals in January 2021 at 96%. Europe and Africa both saw a decline of 85% in arrivals, while the Middle East recorded a drop of 84% and the Americas decreased by 77%.

One in three destinations worldwide remains partially closed, while 36% request a negative Covid-19 test result upon arrival and, in some cases, mandatory quarantine. Just three destinations – Albania, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic – are completely open to tourists, with no restrictions in place.


UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Last year [2020] was the worst year on record for tourism. The international community needs to take strong and urgent action to ensure a brighter 2021. Many millions of livelihoods and businesses are depending on it. Improved coordination between countries and harmonised travel and health protocols are essential to restore confidence in tourism and allow international travel to resume safely ahead of the peak summer season in the northern hemisphere.”

Data indicates that destinations with the strictest measures have some of the lowest rates of vaccination. Destinations that have higher rates of vaccination and where countries are able to work together on harmonised rules and protocols, such as those in the Schengen area of the European Union, are better-placed to allow tourism to return.

Pololikashvili added: “Governments are instrumental for the restart and recovery of tourism through collaboration, use of data and digital solutions.”

UNWTO warns that the restart of global tourism will remain muted as long as governments continue to recommend extreme caution. Four of the 10 top source markets are continuing to advise their citizens against non-essential international travel and these four generated 25% of all international arrivals before the pandemic in 2018.

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