MADRID — The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has echoed the call of its sister UN agency, World Health Organization (WHO), to lift or ease blanket travel restrictions.
During the 10th meeting of the WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee in Geneva on Jan. 19, the WHO expressed concern that restrictions on travel can cause economic and social harm, and may also “discourage transparent and rapid reporting of emerging Variants of Concern.”
The Committee also noted that measures applied to international travellers such as testing, isolation and quarantine, and vaccinations should be based on “risk assessments and avoid placing the financial burden on international travellers.”
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili says: “When it comes to stopping the spread of new virus variants, blanket travel restrictions are simply counterproductive. In fact, by cutting the lifeline of tourism, these restrictions do more harm than good, especially in destinations reliant on international tourists for jobs, economic wellbeing and sustainable change.”
The United Nations’ World Economic Situation and Prospects Report for 2022, to which UNWTO provided the official travel-related data, has noted that in both developed and developing countries, recovery from the impacts of the pandemic is “uneven and fragile.”
“Pololikashvili adds: “It is imperative we restart tourism and so kickstart recovery and get back on track towards meeting the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) while responding to Climate Imperatives. UNWTO welcomes WHO’s new guidance, highlighting the ineffectiveness of blanket travel restrictions, and we also amplify their recommendations against using vaccination status as the sole condition for welcoming tourists back, especially when vaccination rates remain so uneven.”