• Monday, July 15, 2024
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UNWTO calls against blanket travel restrictions

UNWTO calls against blanket travel restrictions

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) of the United Nations calls out against the introduction of blanket restrictions on travel, as witnessed in recent days. The call echoes the concerns raised by UNWTO Members during the 24th UNWTO General Assembly from November 30 – December 3, 2021.

Countries from all global regions expressed their solidarity with Southern African states, calling for the immediate lifting of travel bans imposed on specific countries and for freedom of international travel to be upheld.

UNWTO takes note of the recent declarations of the United Nations Secretary-General and the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the unfairness and ineffectiveness of blanket travel in respect to the countries of Southern Africa.

Restrictions ineffective and discriminatory

In light of recent developments, UNWTO has once again reminded countries that the imposition of blanket restrictions on travel is discriminatory, ineffective and contrary to WHO recommendations. Blanket restrictions may also stigmatize countries or whole regions.

During the UNWTO General Assembly, Members States and partners, including voices from international organizations and across the private sector, echoed WHO’s advice that travel restrictions should only be imposed as a very last resort in response to changing circumstances. Furthermore, it was stressed that if restrictions are introduced, they must be proportionate, transparent, and scientifically based. They must also only be introduced with a full appreciation of what halting international travel would mean for the most vulnerable, including those developing countries and individuals who depend on tourism for their economies and livelihoods.

Coordination not discrimination

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNWTO has called for coordinated and evidence-based approaches to balancing public health concerns with keeping the lifeline of tourism intact. Over recent months, such an approach has been shown to be the most effective way forward.

UNWTO notes that travel and vaccination levels are closely connected, as the emergence of new variants facilitated by low levels of vaccination has shown. As such, UNWTO calls on all countries to act in solidarity to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all, to recognize all WHO approved vaccines for the purpose of international travel and to facilitate access to patents for local production of vaccines.

Read also: Omicron: Prospective NYSC members to show proof of vaccination from 2022

Meanwhile as the new Covid-19 variant surges, it is returning travel bans, according to the UNWTO report.

At present, one out of five destinations continues to have their borders completely closed as new surges of COVID-19 impact the restart of international tourism. The latest research shows that still 98 percent of all destinations have some kind of travel restrictions in place.

According to the UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report, 46 destinations (21 percent of all destinations worldwide) currently have their borders completely closed to tourists. Of these, 26 destinations have had their borders completely closed since at least the end of April 2020. A further 55 (25 percent of all global destinations) continue to have their borders partially closed to international tourism, and 112 destinations (52 percent of all destinations) require international tourists to present a PCR or antigen test upon arrival.

The research also shows how destinations are opening up to vaccinated international tourists: 85 destinations (39 percent of all destinations worldwide) have eased restrictions for fully vaccinated international tourists, while 20 destinations (9 percent of all destinations worldwide) have made a full COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for entering a destination for tourism purposes. However, just four destinations have so far lifted all COVID-19-related restrictions completely (Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Mexico).

Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General says: “The safe easing or lifting of restrictions on travel is essential for the restart of tourism and the return of the social and economic benefits the sector offers. The trend towards destinations taking evidence-based approaches to restrictions reflects the evolving nature of the pandemic will also help restore confidence in travel while helping keep both tourists and tourism workers safe.”

As in previous editions of the UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report research, this latest report shows that regional differences with regards to travel restrictions remain. Asia and the Pacific remains the region with the most restrictions in place, with 65 percent of all destinations completely closed. In comparison, Europe is the most open global region to international tourists (7 percent of borders completely closed), followed by Africa (9 percent), the Americas (10 percent) and the Middle East (15 percent).

The ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic further emphasizes the importance of national authorities ensuring that immigration procedures and requirements are provided in a timely, reliable and consistent manner across all information systems and platforms, to maintain confidence and trust and to further facilitate international mobility.