Road to Recovery

“The world is slowly opening up again”

Some travel and tourism destinations take their first steps to easing restrictions as a slow and uncertain transition towards recovery begins. We present highlights of the latest UN World Tourism Organization status report.

The headline above reflects an upbeat message from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) that will be welcomed by all who work in the travel and tourism communities, upon which travel retail relies. But there is still a long journey ahead before any return to normalcy.

New UNWTO research shows multiple destinations “cautiously” easing travel restrictions introduced in response to COVID-19. As the United Nations agency releases its Global Guidelines for Reopening Tourism report this week, signalling a transition into gearing up for stronger and better recovery, 3% of all global destinations have now taken steps to ease travel restrictions. A small number, but a move in the right direction.

UNWTO has been monitoring the global response to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. The fourth edition of its COVID-19 Related Travel Restrictions: A Global Review for Tourism report again looks at the measures of 217 destinations worldwide (this time as of 18 May). The research shows that seven destinations have eased travel restrictions for international tourism purposes. At the same time, several more destinations are engaged in “significant” discussions about the re-opening of borders.

The report notes that 100% of all destinations worldwide continue to have some form of COVID-19-related travel restrictions in place. Furthermore, as of 18 May 75% continued to have their borders completely closed for international tourism. In 37% of cases, travel restrictions have been in place for ten weeks, while 24% of global destinations have had restrictions in place for 14 weeks or more.

Destinations with travel restrictions, including complete closure of borders to international tourism as of 18 May 2020

Source: Data compiled by UNWTO as of 18 May 2020.

Looking into global travel restrictions more closely, the UNWTO research shows that the more important tourism is to the economies of individual destinations, the more likely they are to have introduced complete border closures. In the case of SIDS destinations (Small Island Developing States), 85% continue to have their borders completely closed for tourism purposes.

All UNWTO regions have more than 65% of their destinations completely closed to tourism: Africa (74%), Americas (86%), Asia and the Pacific (67%), Europe (74%) and the Middle East (69%).

The COVID-19-Related Travel Restrictions report also breaks down the level and type of travel restrictions in place, including prevalence of flight suspensions and measures including compulsory self-isolation and quarantine of tourist arrivals.

Regional breakdown of travel restrictions as of 18 May 2020

Source: Data compiled by UNWTO as of 18 May 2020.

The following travel restrictions are being applied across the 217 destinations monitored worldwide:

  • Complete or partial closure of borders: 185 destinations (85%), an increase from 166 destinations on 27 April.
  • Of these, 163 destinations have completely closed their borders (increase from 156 destinations) for international tourists including air, sea and land border. Some exemptions are usually made for nationals, residents, commuters, diplomats and for essential travel purposes.
  • The remaining 22 destinations have partially closed their borders (up from ten destinations), resulting in a significant reduction of entry points to these destinations.
  • Suspension of flights: 11 destinations (5%) have suspended completely or partially international flights (a decrease from 26 destinations in April).
  • Destination-specific travel restriction: Ten destinations (5%) are implementing the closing of borders in a more differentiated manner by banning the entry for passengers from specific countries of origin (up from nine).
  • Different measures: The remaining 12 destinations (5%) are applying different measures, such as quarantine or self-isolation for 14 days, visa measures, or requesting medical screenings and/or medical certificate before or after arrival (decrease from 16 destinations).

Travel restrictions by economic importance of tourism

Source: Data compiled by UNWTO as of 18 May 2020.

The report offer some cause for optimism, as noted above. UNWTO says: “During the last fortnight, the gradual lifting of national lockdown and quarantine measures has started in some countries bringing some first promising signs for international tourism to recover. Yet, travel advisories, limited flight connections, health concerns as well as potential travel restrictions upon return are still making international travel for tourism purposes very challenging.”

It adds: “The opening of borders for international tourists is of particular relevance for the recovery of the tourism sector in all destinations and even more for those with a high dependence on international tourism. In view of the upcoming holiday season in the Northern Hemisphere, tourism is becoming an increasingly crucial factor in decision making processes for easing travel restrictions. Significant discussions on opening borders for international tourism are underway, including negotiations on different approaches such as the complete opening of borders, bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries, as well as the creation of so called ‘bubbles’ or ‘tourism corridors’.

Depending on the speed of recovery, the agency is forecasting a decline in international arrivals for 2020 ranging from -58% to -78% compared to 2019.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili says: “The timely and responsible easing of travel restrictions will help ensure the many social and economic benefits that tourism guarantees will return in a sustainable way. This will contribute to the livelihoods of many millions of people around the world. The sector is a driver of sustainable development and a pillar of economies. UNWTO stresses the need for vigilance, responsibility and international cooperation as the world slowly opens up again.”

Category of travel restrictions by destination with COVID-19 travel restrictions

Source: Data compiled by UNWTO as of 18 May 2020.

Pololikashvili also welcomed the growing confidence in the global tourism sector, noting it stands ready to return to growth. While tourism has been the hardest hit of all the world’s major economic sectors, UNWTO has led a joint response and last week released its Global Guidelines to Reopen Tourism report. These guidelines outline the steps governments and the private sector can take to accelerate recovery in the months ahead.

The latest COVID-19-Related Travel Restrictions report and past editions can be accessed through the UNWTO website.

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The Moodie Davitt eZine

Issue 280 | 3 June 2020

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 12 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

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