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One in three destinations now closed to international tourism

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One in three destinations worldwide are completely closed to international tourism.

According to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization, the emergence of new COVID-19 variants has prompted many governments to reverse efforts to ease travel restrictions, with total closures to tourists most prevalent in Asia and the Pacific and Europe.

69 of 217 destinations off-limits

The UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report provides an overview of the regulations in place in 217 destinations worldwide. While previous editions had shown a movement toward easing or lifting restrictions on travel, the latest report shows that the persistent seriousness of the epidemiological situation has caused governments to adopt a more cautious approach. 

As of the beginning of February, 32% of all destinations worldwide (69 in total) were 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% of worldwide destinations are now partially closed to international tourists.

'Travel restrictions have been widely used to restrict the spread of the virus. Now, as we work to restart tourism, we must recognize that restrictions are just one part of the solution,' UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Polilikashvili said. '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.'

Regional variations

UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report shows that regional differences in regard to travel restrictions remain. 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 toward 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 along with contact details for tracing purposes.

Some 32% of all worldwide destinations now make the presentation of such tests their main requirement for international arrivals, often combined with quarantine, while the same amount have made tests a secondary or tertiary measure.

Top source markets remain cautious

The UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report also notes how different governments are issuing advice to their own citizens. Analysis of the top 10 tourism source markets currently advising against nonessential travel abroad found they generated 44% of all international arrivals in 2018.

UNWTO noted advice issued by governments will play a crucial role in the restart and recovery of tourism in the weeks and months ahead.

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