The global rollout of vaccines against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the increased adoption of digital solutions for safe travel will ease travel restrictions, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
The organisation’s latest data shows that these two aspects put together should lead to a rise in international mobility over the weeks and months ahead.
According to the newest edition of the Travel Restrictions Report from the UN’s specialised tourism agency, as of 1 June, 29% of all destinations worldwide remain completely closed to international tourism.
Of these, more than half have been completely closed to tourists since May 2020 or longer, with the majority of these belonging to the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Island Developing States.
In comparison, just three destinations, namely Albania, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic, are completely open to tourists, with no restrictions now in place.
The UNWTO said that one in three, or 34%, of all destinations are partially closed, and 36% request a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival. In some cases, this comes in combination with a requirement to quarantine.
The data confirms the trend towards destinations adopting more nuanced, evidence-and-risk-based approaches to restrictions on travel. These come particularly in light of the evolving epidemiological situation and the emergence of new variants of the virus.
A total of 42% of all destinations have introduced specific restrictions for visitors from destinations with variants of concern, ranging from the suspension of flights and closing of borders, to compulsory quarantine.
Additionally, since most of those destinations with the strictest measures have some of the lowest rates of vaccination, the data also indicates a link between vaccination speed and easing of restrictions.
In comparison, there are some destinations that have higher rates of vaccination or are able to work together on harmonised rules and protocols, such as those being employed in the Schengen area of the European Union (EU). These areas are better-placed to allow for the slow return of tourism.
“Governments are instrumental for the restart and recovery of tourism through collaboration, use of data and digital solutions”, says UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
Regional differences with regards to travel restrictions remain, with a total of 70% of all destinations in Asia and the Pacific completely closed. This compares with just 13% in Europe, as well as 20% in the Americas, 19% in Africa, and 31% in the Middle East, according to the UNWTO.
The organisation said that assessing current requirements for vaccinated passengers, 17% of all destinations worldwide specifically mention vaccinated passengers in their regulations. In most cases, travel restrictions continue to apply to fully vaccinated passengers who have received two doses of an approved vaccine.
However, in others, all restrictions have been lifted. The UNWTO expects that this will significantly evolve over the coming weeks.
The report indicates that the restart of global tourism will remain muted so long as governments continue to advise caution. Four of the 10 top source markets keep advising their citizens against non-essential travel abroad, these four having generated 25% of all international arrivals in 2018.