The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) today reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted all destinations worldwide to introduce restrictions on travel, which represents the most severe restriction on international travel in history. No country has so far lifted restrictions introduced in response to the crisis.
Following up on previous research, the latest data from the United Nations specialized agency for tourism shows that 100% of destinations now have restrictions in place. Of these, 83% have had COVID-19-related restrictions in place already for four or more weeks and, as of April 20, so far no destination has lifted them.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism has shown its commitment to putting people first. Our sector can also lead the way in driving recovery. This research on global travel restrictions will help support the timely and responsible implementation of exit strategies, allowing destinations to ease or lift travel restrictions when it is safe to do so. This way, the social and economic benefits that tourism offers can return, providing a path to sustainable recovery for both individuals and whole countries.”
Tracking Restrictions by Time and Severity
The UNWTO research presents a general overview and breaks down the type of travel restrictions that have been introduced by destinations in all of the global regions. The research also plots the evolution of these restrictions since January 30 – when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The latest analysis shows that, of 217 destinations worldwide:
- 45% have totally or partially closed their borders for tourists – “Passengers are not allowed to enter”
- 30% have suspended totally or partially international flights – “all flights are suspended”
- 18% are banning the entry for passengers from specific countries of origin or passengers who have transited through specific destinations
- 7% are applying different measures, such as quarantine or self-isolation for 14 days and visa measures.
Against this backdrop, UNWTO has been leading calls for governments worldwide to commit to supporting tourism through this unprecedented challenge. According to Secretary-General Pololikashvili, the sudden and unexpected fall in tourism demand caused by COVID-19 places millions of jobs and livelihoods at risk while at the same time jeopardizing the advances made in sustainable development and equality over recent years.
In an assessment issued on March 26, The UNWTO reported that international tourist arrivals could be down by 20% to 30% in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures.
This downfall translates into a decline in international tourism receipts (exports) of between US$300-450 billion, almost one third of the US$ 1.5 trillion generated in 2019. Taking into account past market trends, this would mean that between five and seven years’ worth of growth will be lost to COVID-19.