Tuesday,  January 26, 2021  5:34 pm

Good news: 70% of destinations have lifted travel restrictions. But…

Good news: 70% of destinations have lifted travel restrictions. But…

Here's the good news from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO): the number of destinations closed to international tourism continues to decline.

Now, 70 per cent of the world's destinations have relaxed travel restrictions that were introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In comparison, only one in four destinations continue to keep its borders completely closed to international tourists.

Indeed, the UNWTO report on travel restrictions shows that as of Nov. 1, a total of 152 destinations have reduced restrictions on international tourism, up from 115 on Sept. 1. 

At the same time, 59 destinations kept their borders closed to tourists, a decrease from 34 over the same two-month period.

The fastest and the slowest

According to the UNWTO study, the destinations with the best scores on health and hygiene indicators, as well as on the environmental performance index, are among those that eased restrictions more quickly.

What's more, these destinations increasingly apply differentiated and risk-based approaches to enforcing travel restrictions.

In contrast, destinations that choose to keep their borders closed tend to be in emerging economies with relatively low scores for health and hygiene indicators and the environmental performance index, UNWTO points out.

Most of these destinations are in Asia and the Pacific, and many of them are SIDS (Small Island Developing States), LDCs (Least Developed Countries) or LLDCs (Landlocked Developing Countries) landlocked developing countries.

The problem, of course, is that Canada is also one of those destinations which, to this day, chooses to keep its borders closed.

Europe shows the way

In this regard, the UNWTO notes that "a gap is widening at the global level".

Europe continues to lead the way in lifting or relaxing travel restrictions, followed by the Americas (excluding Canada), Africa and then the Middle East. 

Asia and the Pacific remain the region where travel restrictions have been eased the least and where the most comprehensive border closures for international tourism have been put in place.

The UNWTO report highlights the important role that governments can play in reviving tourism.

Of the ten largest source markets for tourism, four (accounting for 19% of all overseas travel in 2018) have published a guide that advises against all types of non-essential international travel.

However, the other six (accounting for 30% of all departing trips in 2018) provided more nuanced travel advice, based on evidence-based risk assessments.

"The lifting of travel restrictions is essential to drive our wider recovery from the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. Governments have an important part to play in giving data-led and responsible travel advice and in working together to lift restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so," said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. 

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