UNWTO Joins WHO to Say “Travel Restrictions Don’t Work”

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has endorsed the appeal by its sister UN agency, the World Health Organization (WHO), for travel restrictions to be eased in a number of countries.

According to the World Health Organization, fresh evidence on the rise and spread of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 has revealed that travel restrictions are not only ineffective but also counter-productive. According to the 10th meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee (Geneva, 19 January), which echoed the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s warning against the use of blanket restrictions, such measures have done little to prevent the spread of new variants and have instead caused social and economic harm, particularly in developing countries.

Following the UN World Tourism Organization’s warning issued at the end of 2021, the Committee stated that travel limitations can “discourage transparent and rapid reporting of emerging Variants of Concern” Additional travel mitigations and measures, such as testing, isolation and quarantine, and vaccinations, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), should always be “evidence-based” and be updated in response to changing circumstances.

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, says: “When it comes to stopping the spread of new virus variants, travel restrictions are simply not effective. In fact, by cutting the lifeline of tourism, blanket restrictions do more harm than good, especially in destinations reliant on international tourists for jobs, economic wellbeing and sustainable change.”

He also added “It is imperative we restart tourism and so kickstart recovery and get back on track towards meeting the SDGs while responding to Climate Imperatives. UNWTO welcomes WHO’s new guidance, highlighting the ineffectiveness of travel restrictions, and we also amplify their recommendations against using vaccination status as the sole condition for welcoming tourists back, especially when vaccination rates remain so uneven.”

The United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects Report for 2022 – for which the UNWTO provided the official travel-related data – highlighted that recovery from the effects of the pandemic remains “uneven and fragile” in both developed and developing countries. It also draws attention to the significant reversal in progress toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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