Trocadero square near the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France / Reuters

UN agency: Restart of tourism underway

The responsible restart of tourism is underway around the world. Because a growing number of destinations are easing COVID-19 related travel restrictions and adapt to the new reality. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 40% of all destinations worldwide have now less restrictions.

The United Nations specialized agency for tourism monitors the global responses to the pandemic. It’s latest outlook, recorded on July 19, is up from 22% of destinations that eased restrictions by June 15. It was only 3% in May 15. This confirms the trend of a slow restart of international tourism.

At the same time, however, of the 87 destinations that have now eased travel restrictions, just four have completely lifted all of them. While 83 have eased them while keeping some measures. They include the partial closure of borders. In addition, 115 destinations (53% of all destinations worldwide) continue to keep their borders completely closed for tourism.

Responsible restart is possible

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili says: “The restart of tourism can be undertaken responsibly and in a way that safeguards public health while also supporting businesses and livelihoods. As destinations continue to ease restrictions on travel, international cooperation 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.”

According to the UNWTO report, destinations with a higher dependency on tourism are more likely to be easing restrictions on travel. For instance, of the 87 destinations that have eased restrictions recently, 20 are Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Many of them depend on tourism as a central pillar of employment, economic growth and development. Around half (41) of all those destinations that have eased restrictions are in Europe.

The four countries that have lifted travel restrictions for international tourism are Albania, Maldives, Serbia and Tanzania.

Many destinations still in long-term lockdown

115 destinations continue to have their borders completely closed to international tourism.The report finds that a majority (88) have been completely closed their borders for international tourism for more than 12 weeks.

The cost related to the travel restrictions introduced in response to COVID-19 has historic dimensions. The UNWTO data shows that by already by the end of May, the pandemic had led to US$320 billion in lost revenues. This is already three times the cost of the 2009 Global Economic Crisis.

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