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Trust, caution vital as travel restrictions start to ease– WTO


As countries move to ease travel restrictions, the tourism sector is seeking for a revamp from the COVID-19 fall.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Countries are cautiously starting to ease travel restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 according to research published by the World Tourism Organization. The details are published in the fourth edition of the agency’s report series titled COVID-19 Travel Restrictions; A Global Review for Tourism.

The agency reviewed measures of 217 destinations worldwide as of 18 May and found that 3 percent of all destinations have taken steps to ease restrictions. Seven destinations have eased restrictions for international tourism purposes while several more are engaged in discussions on the reopening of borders after months of lockdowns.

The report notes that 100 percent of all destinations worldwide continue to have some COVID-19 travel restrictions in place, 75 percent is still completely closed to international tourism. In 37 percent of all cases, restrictions have been in place for 10 weeks while 24 percent have had controls in place for 14 weeks or more.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni yesterday announced that Entebbe International Airport and other Ugandan borders will remain closed even as the country eased lockdown restrictions allowing a number of businesses to resume operations after more than 10 weeks of inactivity.

However, the report observes that although the gradual lifting of national lockdown and quarantine measures brings promising signs for international tourism to recover, travel advisories, limited flight connections, health concerns as well as potential travel restrictions upon return are still making international travel for tourism purposes very challenging.

The Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organisation Zurab Pololikashvili stresses “the need for vigilance, responsibility and international cooperation as the world slowly opens up again. He says that the timely and responsible easing of travel restrictions will help ensure the many social and economic benefits that tourism guarantees will return in a sustainable way.

The more important tourism is to individual economies, the more likely it is that countries have responded with complete border closures.  In the case of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the report finds that 85 percent continue to remain completely closed to tourists.

In all UNWTO regions, more than 65 percent of their destinations remain completely closed to tourism:  Africa (74 percent), the Americas (86 percent), Asia and the Pacific (67 percent), Europe (74 percent) and the Middle East (69 percent).

The report follows last week’s release of global guidelines to restart tourism aimed at helping the sector emerge more sustainably from COVID-19. Produced in cooperation with the Global Tourism Crisis Committee, the guidance highlights the need to act decisively to restore confidence and to embrace innovation.

UNWTO warns that international tourist arrivals could fall between 60 and 80 percent depending on when restrictions are lifted. This could place 100 to 120 million jobs at risk and potentially lead to USD 910 billion to USD 1.2 trillion lost in exports.

“These guidelines provide both governments and businesses with a comprehensive set of measures designed to help them open tourism up again in a safe, seamless and responsible manner,” Pololikashvili said.



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