As new intelligence from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reveals that 40 per cent of all worldwide destinations have now eased Covid-19 restrictions on international travel (as of 19 July, that’s a 22-per-cent increase on the number that had eased travel by 15 June), the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a document of considerations regarding public health that national health authorities should take into account when implementing the resumption of international travel opportunities.
WHO asserts that the gradual lifting of travel measures (or temporary restrictions) should be: “Based on a thorough risk assessment, taking into account country context, the local epidemiology and transmission patterns, the national health and social measures to control the outbreak, and the capacities of health systems in both departure and destination countries, including at points of entry.”
As such, WHO advises that each country should conduct a risk-benefit analysis and decide on its priorities – WHO insists that priority should be given to essential travel for emergencies, humanitarian actions (including emergency medical flights and medical evacuation), travel of essential personnel (including emergency responders and providers of public health technical support, etc.) and repatriation.
In addition, WHO reasons that digital tools, including mobile phones that can provide location tracking and proximity tracing, may provide helpful support to public health contact tracing initiatives.
WHO’s latest advice comes as UNWTO unveils its latest UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report, which claims that destinations with a higher dependency on tourism are more likely to be easing restrictions on travel – of the 87 destinations that have eased restrictions recently, 20 are small island developing states (SIDS), many of which depend on tourism as a central pillar of employment, economic growth and development. In addition, the report highlights that 41 per cent of all the destinations that have eased restrictions are in Europe, confirming the leading role of the region for restarting tourism.
With infection numbers rising again, and some countries being forced to reinstate travel restrictions, it comes as no surprise that WHO’s latest announcement places a precedent on international travel that prioritises essential travel for emergencies. But with the global economy at an all time low, countries are looking to tourism again as a means to save their economies. As such, stringent measures that consider public safety will be an imperative factor in both increasing revenue and mitigating the spread of the virus. As long as insurers can adapt their products to meet the continuously evolving travel risk landscape, consumers may still have the confidence to travel, but it’s a tricky balancing act, and will likely rely on industry-wide co-operation among those working in the travel sphere.
“The restart of tourism can be undertaken responsibly and in a way that safeguards public health while also supporting businesses and livelihoods,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a statement. “As destinations continue to ease restrictions on travel, international co-operation is of paramount importance. This way, global tourism can gain people’s trust and confidence, essential foundations as we work together to adapt to the new reality we now face.”