Will vaccines and digital solutions help the easing of travel restrictions?

Will vaccines and digital solutions help the easing of travel restrictions?

According to the newest edition of the Travel Restrictions Report from the United Nations specialized agency for tourism, as of June 1, 29 percent of all destinations worldwide have their borders completely closed to international tourism. Of these, more than half have been completely closed to tourists since May 2020 or longer, with the majority of these belonging to the Small Island Development States of Asia and the Pacific. In comparison, just three destinations (Albania, Costa Rica and Dominican Republic) are completely open to tourists, with no restrictions in place.

One in three (34 percent) of all destinations are partially closed and 36 percent require a negative Covid-19 test result upon arrival, in combination with a requirement to quarantine in some cases. Since most of those destinations with the strictest measures have some of the lowest rates of vaccination, the data also indicates a link between vaccination speed and easing of restrictions. In comparison, destinations that have higher rates of vaccination and where countries are able to work together on harmonized rules and protocols such as those being employed in the Schengen area of the European Union, are better placed to allow tourism to slowly return.

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“Governments are instrumental for the restart and recovery of tourism through collaboration, use of data and digital solutions”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

Regional differences with regard to travel restrictions remain. In total, 70 percent of all destinations in Asia and the Pacific are completely closed, compared with just 13 percent in Europe, as well as 20 percent in the Americas, 19 percent in Africa and 31 percent in the Middle East.

Assessing current requirements for vaccinated passengers, 17 percent of all destinations worldwide specifically mention vaccinated passengers in their regulations. In most cases, travel restrictions continue to apply to fully vaccinated passengers (who have received two doses of an approved vaccine), though in others, all restrictions are lifted. UNWTO expects that this will significantly evolve over the coming weeks.

The report indicates that the restart of global tourism will remain muted so long as governments continue to advise caution. Four of the top 10 source markets keep advising their citizens against non-essential travel abroad (these four generated 25 percent of all international arrivals in 2018).

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