96% of global destinations impose travel restrictions in response to Covid-19, UNWTO

According to research by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), as of April, 6, 96 percent of all worldwide destinations have introduced travel restrictions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the United Nation’s specialised agency for tourism, UNWTO has been regularly monitoring travel facilitation and observing a continuous trend towards more openness. However, Covid-19 changed it all. Studying the scale of disruption caused by COVID-19 to global tourism, the report said that almost all global destinations have imposed restrictions on travel since January 2020 as part of efforts to mitigate 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.

The UNWTO global review found that the global regions are largely consistent in their response to COVID-19. In Africa, Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East, 100 percent of destinations have adopted COVID-19-related restrictions since January 2020. In the Americas, 92 percent of destinations have taken similar steps; while in Europe, it is 93 percent as of April 6.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili 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 therefore calls on governments to continuously review travel restrictions and ease or lift them as soon as it is safe to do so.’

The research identifies four key types of restrictive measures, such as: complete or partial closure of borders to tourists; destination-specific travel restrictions, the total or partial suspension of flights; and other measures, including requirements for quarantine or self-isolation, medical certificates, invalidation or suspension of visa issuances etc.

According to the report, destinations have already started adjusting 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,’ it said.

Tourists Banned from India’s Tiger Parks

The tiger, one of India’s most recognisable icons, is set to become an even more elusive sight for the country’s wildlife-loving tourists, with the announcement of a ban on tourism in the key national parks where the big cats roam.

Following a ruling from India’s Supreme Court, the protected parks where tourists were able to experience close encounters with the predator are likely to exclude all such future visits in an attempt to provide the animals with better protection and to increase their population. At the same time, six states that had not introduced buffer zones around their park’s tiger habitats, as per a ruling made in April, have incurred harsh penalties.

The news is not likely to be welcomed by tourists that have already booked trips to India, with tiger spotting excursions high on their agendas, but the decision has been made amidst allegations that some states have flouted rules and allowed resorts, hotels and shops to be built within the reserves.

A prime driver in the enforcement of the ban is Ajay Dube, a conservationist who filed a complaint that sought to ban tourism and other commercial activity from parks while tiger numbers recover.

Conversely, the tourism industry argues that the money that is generated from such visits is essential to the survival of the animals and the development of local communities.

According to The Daily Mail, Paul Goldstein, a wildlife expert and guide with travel company, Exodus, commented, ‘The presence of tourists is not only a critical source of income it is also an essential deterrent for poachers and without these extra sets of eyes the tigers will be vulnerable and disappear. Nowhere in the world can predators survive without tourism, tigers are no different except they are more vulnerable than any other cat. India is happy to brandish the tiger brand, but their government is about to be responsible for its demise.’

Mr Goldstein also told the newspaper that he has already started receiving cancellations from repeat visitors for next year, claiming that ‘the rot has already set in’.