One in three destinations closed to international tourism

One in three destinations worldwide are now completely closed to international tourism, according to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The emergence of new variants of the COVID-19 virus has prompted many governments to reverse efforts to ease restrictions on travel, with total closures to tourists most prevalent in Asia and the Pacific and Europe.

Examining the regulations in place in 217 destinations worldwide, the latest report shows that governments have u-turned from a previous movement towards easing or lifting restrictions on travel and adopted a more cautious approach of late.

As of the beginning of February, 32 per cent of all destinations worldwide (69 in total) are completely closed for international tourism. Of these, around just over half (38 destinations) have been closed for at least 40 weeks. At the same time, 34 per cent of worldwide destinations are now partially closed to international tourists.

Of the 69 destinations where borders are completely closed to tourists, 30 are in Asia and the Pacific, 15 are in Europe, 11 are in Africa, 10 are in the Americas and three are in the Middle East.

At the same time, the UNWTO research also indicates a trend towards adopting a more nuanced, evidence and risk-based approach to implementing travel restrictions.

Growing numbers of destinations worldwide now require international tourists to present a negative PCR or antigen test upon arrival and also provide contact details for tracing purposes.

A third (32 per cent) of all worldwide destinations now have the presentation of such tests as their main requirement for international arrivals often combined with quarantine, while the same amount have made tests a secondary or tertiary measure.

“Travel restrictions have been widely used to restrict the spread of the virus,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Polilikashvili.

“Now, as we work to restart tourism, we must recognise that restrictions are just one part of the solution. Their use must be based on the latest data and analysis and consistently reviewed so as to allow for the safe and responsible restart of a sector upon which many millions of businesses and jobs depend.”