Restart international tourism

The global vaccination roll-out and increased adoption of digital solutions for safe travel should lead to a rise in international mobility over the weeks and months ahead, according to data in the latest edition of the Travel Restrictions Report from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Hazel Jain

Borders are mostly open

Since June 1, only 29 per cent of destinations all over the world have their borders entirely closed for international tourism.Of these destinations, more than half of them have been completely closed to tourist arrivals since May 2020 or longer, with the majority of countries belonging to the Small Island Development States of Asia and the Pacific.

3 countries open fully

In contrast, three destinations, Albania, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic, are completely open to tourist arrivals, without any restrictions in place. One in three of all destinations, or more precisely 34 per cent, are currently partially closed, and 36 per cent of them require tourists to present a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival, in some cases along with a quarantine requirement.

Nuanced approach by countries

The data confirms the trend towards destinations adopting more nuanced, evidence-and-risk-based approaches to restrictions on travel, particularly in light of the evolving epidemiological situation and the emergence of new variants of the virus. 42 per cent of all destinations have introduced distinct restrictions for travellers arriving from countries where variants have widely spread by suspending flights, closing the borders, or imposing compulsory quarantine requirements.

Link between restrictions and vax

UNWTO noted that the data suggests a link between easing of restrictions and vaccination speed. In contrast, destinations that have higher vaccination rates and countries that can work together on harmonised protocols and rules, such as those utilised in the Schengen Area, are better placed to allow tourism to return gradually.

Regional differences

The report revealed that regional differences related to travel restrictions remain: 70 per cent of destinations in Asia and the Pacific are entirely closed, 13 per cent of destinations in Europe are entirely closed, 20 per cent of destinations in the Americas are entirely closed, 19 per cent of destinations in Africa are entirely closed, 31 per cent of destinations in the Middle East are entirely closed.

Vaccinated pax requirements

Assessing current requirements for vaccinated passengers, 17% of all destinations worldwide specifically mention vaccinated passengers in their regulations. In most cases, travel restrictions continue to apply to fully vaccinated passengers, though in others, all restrictions are lifted.

Collab, collab, collab!

The report indicates that the restart of global tourism will remain muted so long as governments continue to advise caution. Four of the 10 top source markets keep advising their citizens against non-essential travel abroad (these four generated 25% of all international arrivals in 2018). Governments are instrumental for the restart and recovery of tourism through collaboration, use of data, and digital solutions.


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