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Majority of destinations easing travel restrictions, says UNWTO

Majority of destinations easing travel restrictions, says UNWTO

Thursday, September 10, 2020

MADRID — While a majority of destinations around the world have started easing travel restrictions, the UNWTO says caution remains as a vast number of destinations remain completely closed to tourism.

According to the seventh edition of the UNWTO ‘COVID-19 Related Travel Restrictions: A Global Review for Tourism’, which analyzes restrictions up to Sept. 1, a total of 115 destinations (53% of all destinations worldwide) have eased restrictions, an increase of 28 since July 19. Of these, two have lifted all restrictions, while the remaining 113 continue to have certain restrictive measures in place.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili credited the gradual return to tourism to coordinated leadership and cooperation between governments.

“Starting to ease restrictions on travel opens the doors for tourism’s social and economic benefits to return,” he said. “While we must remain vigilant and cautious, we are concerned about those destinations with ongoing full travel restrictions, especially where tourism is a lifeline and economic and social development are under threat.”

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For the first time, UNWTO’s report includes key data on the health and hygiene infrastructure in place at destinations, while also analyzing rate of notifications of new COVID-19 cases. This allows the organization to determine the factors that are influencing destinations’ decisions to ease restrictions.

Notable findings include:

  • Destinations that have eased travel restrictions generally have high or very high levels of health and hygiene infrastructure. They also tend to have comparatively low COVID-19 infection rates.
  • Within advanced economies, 79% of tourism destinations have already eased restrictions. In emerging economies, just 47% of destinations have done so.
  • 64% of those destinations that have eased have a high or medium dependence on air as a mode of transport for international tourism arrivals.

At the same time, the report shows that many destinations are extremely cautious about easing travel restrictions they introduced in response to the pandemic, and some have passed severe measures to keep citizens safe. A total of 93 destinations (43% of all worldwide destinations) continue to have their borders completely closed to tourism, of which 27 have had their borders completely closed for at least 30 weeks.

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Moreover, more than half of all destinations with borders completely closed to tourism are classified as being among the ‘World’s Most Vulnerable Countries.’ They include 10 SIDS 9Small Island Developing States), one Least Developed Country (LDC) and three Land-Locked Developing Countries (LLDCs). More than half of destinations with full restrictions still in place are also highly dependent on aviation, with at least 70% of tourism arrivals coming by air, causing significant connectivity impacts for their citizens and economies.

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