“A majority of destinations around the world (53%) have now started easing travel restrictions introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” concludes an extensive, country-by-country report by the United Nations specialized agency for tourism, UNWTO.
Although “many remain cautious in view of the development of the pandemic,” the seventh edition of UNWTO’s ‘COVID-19 Related Travel Restrictions: ‘A Global Review for Tourism’ confirms an ongoing trend towards the gradual restart of tourism.
Analyzing restrictions until September 1, the U.N. agency found that a total of 115 worldwide destinations have eased travel restrictions, an increase of 28 since July. Of these, two (Albania and Maldives) have lifted all restrictions, while the remaining 113 still have partial bans in place.
“Coordinated leadership and enhanced cooperation between governments means tourism is slowly but steadily restarting in many parts of the world,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
Of those 115 destinations, 44 are in Europe (including the 26 Schengen Member States), 27 from the Americas, 26 from Africa, 13 from Asia and the Pacific and five from the Middle East.
Europe is the region where more destinations (81%) have eased travel restrictions, although the situation continues to be “fluid” with different countries reviewing their conditions of entry for ‘third countries’ weekly.
“For the internal borders in the Schengen area, various restrictive measures have been applied during the last months by each Member State,” UNWTO’s research shows. “Such measures have significantly limited the movement of tourists between destinations of the region and subsequently brought international intraregional tourism almost to a complete standstill during April and May 2020.”
In June, the European Commission recommended partial and gradual lifting of such restrictions and by July, all 26 Member States had partially opened their borders to other EU countries. “This was of particular relevance towards the restoration of intraregional tourism within the EU area, and in view of the summer holiday season.”
The website “Re-open EU” was established by the European Commission to house all the information on travel restrictions within the E.U. area. “Schengen Member States are closely monitoring the evolution of the pandemic in the other States and reintroduce restrictions when the epidemiological situation worsens. For this purpose, countries have introduced a system that categorizes destinations according to the epidemiological situation,” the study says.
Based on this, several European States have applied travel advisories for destinations in the higher infection categories, as well as the request for a PCR diagnostic test that detects active coronavirus upon arrival or within a certain time after arrival, or alternatively a period of quarantine.
Europe’s Reopening To International Travel
On June 30, the European Council agreed to start easing travel restrictions for residents of 15 “third-countries” according to specific criteria and conditions to assess the epidemiological situation in such countries, which show a similar or lower number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days than the E.U. average, as well as “the ability to apply containment measures during travel and reciprocity considerations.”
But by August 7, the European Council had reduced the list to 11 destinations: Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity.
According to the regional analysis, Europe – where 81% of all destinations have eased restrictions and 17% maintain complete border closure — has moved farther than anywhere else to ease travel restrictions.
What’s Going On In Asia And The Pacific?
The U.N. research shows that in Asia and the Pacific, destinations are taking longer to ease restrictions, with 28% having eased some.
“This is of particular interest as the destinations in Asia and the Pacific were among the first ones that introduced travel restrictions from the very beginning of the outbreak of the virus,” the report notes.
Despite the easing of travel restrictions in 115 destinations worldwide, the complete closure of borders continues to be the most dominant type of travel restrictions so far. This is how it applies to 93 destinations worldwide:
• 62% of the destinations in the Middle East (a decrease from 77% on July 19). • 61% of destinations in Asia and the Pacific (a decrease from 63% on July 19) • 51% of the destinations in Africa (a decrease from 70% on July 19) • 41% of destinations in the Americas (a decrease from 55% on July 19) • 17% of destinations in Europe (a decrease from 20% on July 19)
What’s Behind The ‘Fluidity’ Of The Situation?
UNWTO has advised that even as tourism restarts in some regions, in others restrictions may be tightened and borders re-closed. The organization observes “a rise in travel advisories being issued by governments for their own citizens, alongside more and varied restrictions and other measures directed at passengers arriving from specific countries or regions.”
Governments in destinations that have eased restrictions continue to indicate that travel bans could be reintroduced at any time in case of increasing infection rates. These often rapid changes in travel restrictions remain a major challenge.
Consequently, immigration procedures and requirements will vary from destination to destination, which is especially challenging for the consistency of information on procedures and requirements across the different national authorities, namely health, foreign affairs, immigration and tourism authorities.
The following are some of the main results of the U.N. study:
- Destinations which 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 restrictions 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 around the world are extremely cautious about easing travel restrictions they introduced in response to the pandemic — and some have passed severe measures in an attempt to keep their citizens safe: “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.”
More than half of all destinations with borders completely closed to tourism are among the “World’s Most Vulnerable Countries.” More than half of destinations with full restrictions still in place are also “highly dependent on aviation, with at least 70% of their tourists arriving by air, causing significant connectivity impacts for their citizens and economies.”
The report recommends the implementation of reliable, consistent and easy-to-access information on immigration procedures in order for international tourists to avoid unnecessary burdens.
“It is now, especially in view of the upcoming fast-changing procedures and requirements, even more important that national authorities ensure that immigration procedures and requirements are provided in a timely, reliable and consistent manner across all information systems and platforms, to maintain confidence and trust.”
Destinations That Have Eased And Lifted Travel Bans For International Tourism Purposes
Applied by 115 destinations: Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Aruba, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bonaire, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Curaçao, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guinea (Republic of), Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong SAR, Iceland, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea (Republic of), Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Martinique, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Reunion, Romania, (The) Russian Federation, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Sudan, Spain, St Eustatius, St Lucia, St Maarten, St Vincent and Grenadines, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Turks and Caicos, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Zambia.
Destinations which have lifted travel restrictions for international tourism purposes Applied by two destinations, Albania, Maldives.
List Of Destinations That Have Completely Closed Borders As Of September 1
Applied by 93 destinations (43% of all destinations worldwide): Algeria, Angola, Anguilla, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros Islands, Congo, Cook Islands, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Fiji, French Guyana, Gambia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Micronesia, Mongolia, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, New Caledonie, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, (The) Philippines, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Saba, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Eswatini, Syrian Arab Republic, Taiwan Province of China, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Virgin Islands British, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
Here is the complete report and listings.