Millions of jobs in the global tourism industry could be lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted travel like no other event in history and caused 96 per cent of all worldwide destinations to introduce restrictions in response to the outbreak, the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has said.
Over recent years, as the United Nations specialised agency for tourism, UNWTO has been regularly monitoring travel facilitation and observing a continuous trend towards more openness.
However, COVID-19 has dramatically interrupted this, the UNWTO said in a new report.
Almost all global destinations have imposed restrictions on travel since January 2020, including complete bans on all travel as they work to contain the pandemic, it noted.
"According to research carried out for the new report, as of April 6, 96% of all worldwide destinations have introduced travel restrictions in response to the pandemic. Around 90 destinations have completely or partially closed their borders to tourists, while a further 44 are closed to certain tourists depending on country of origin," it said.
"COVID-19 has impacted travel and tourism like no other event before in history. Governments have put public health first and introduced full or partial restrictions on travel.
"With tourism suspended, the benefits the sector brings are under threat: millions of jobs could be lost, and progress made in the fields of equality and sustainable economic growth could be rolled back," UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.
The UNWTO called on all governments to continuously review travel restrictions and ease or lift them as soon as it is safe to do so.
The UNWTO world review shows that the global regions are largely consistent in their response to COVID-19.
In Africa, Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East, 100% of destinations have adopted COVID-19-related restrictions since January 2020. In the Americas, 92% of destinations have taken similar steps, while in Europe, the proportion is 93%.
The analysis identified four key types of restrictive measures, namely complete or partial closure of borders to tourists, destination-specific travel restrictions, total or partial suspension of flights and different measures, including requirements for quarantine or self-isolation, medical certificates, invalidation or suspension of visa issuances.
It said in many instances, destinations have already adjusted their restrictive measures as the situation has evolved. UNWTO will continue to regularly track and analyse the evolution of travel restrictions, in an effort to effectively support the responsible but also timely recovery of the tourism sector.