As of 1 November 2020, a total of 152 destinations have eased restrictions on international tourism, reports UNWTO in its Travel Restrictions Report published early December. Just one in four destinations continue to keep their borders completely closed to international tourists.
“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.
But UNWTO also reports that a gap is emerging between those destinations that have been able to life restrictions and those who remain shut off.
Europe leads while Asia Pacific falls behind
“Europe continues to lead the way in lifting or easing travel restrictions followed by the Americas, Africa and then the Middle East,” UNWTO’s report reads. “Meanwhile, Asia and the Pacific continues to be the region with the fewest travel restrictions eased and more complete border closures in place for international tourism.”
Destinations with higher scores in health and hygiene indicators, as well as on the environmental performance index, are among those which have eased restrictions faster, UNWTO explains, while destinations choosing to keep their borders closed tend to be within emerging economies with relatively low scores in health and hygiene indicators and environmental performance index.
A recent conference hosted by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Spanish Government found as much too.
UNWTO identifies that the majority of these destinations [with low scores in health and hygiene factors] are in Asia and the Pacific, with many belonging to the SIDS (Small Island Developing States), LDCs (Least Developed Countries) or LLDCs (Landlocked Developing Countries).
Government backing needing to bolster travel globally
Restarting tourism can be helped by governments, says UNWTO. It cites that out of the ten largest tourism source markets, four of them (which represent 19 per cent of all outbound trips in 2018) have issued guidance advising against all non-essential international travel.
Blanket ‘non-essential travel’ advisories appear to be a key barrier to the revival of international travel. Indeed, UNWTO details that the other six of the ten largest tourism source markets (which represent 30 per cent of all outbound trips in 2018), have issued more ‘nuanced’ travel advisories based on evidence-based risk assessments. And this allow parts of the travel trade industry to maintain operations, at least on a small scale, keeping the cogs turning before restrictions begin to loosen up on a larger scale.