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“Tourism is a Lifeline”: New UNWTO Report
22 September 2020 | Written by Chris Alexander

The United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has released a comprehensive report, detailing the current state of tourism in countries around the world. According to the results, 53% of tourist destinations (115 countries) have now begun easing or lifting travel restrictions, although many governments – with Thailand a prominent example – are proceeding with caution and even reinstating restrictions in some cases.  

The report, entitled “Covid-19 Related Travel Restrictions: A Global Review for Tourism” documents global trends in tourism and is a useful indicator of general health in the sector. With many countries – Thailand included – looking for ways to safely reboot their tourism industries, the latest edition of the report offers valuable guidance.  

According to the report, a total of 115 countries worldwide have already lifted their travel restrictions to some extent; a growth of 28 nations since 19th July (the threshold for results in the previous report). Two countries have already completely lifted their Covid-19 travel restrictions, while the remaining 113 continue to keep some form of protective measures in place. 

While experts continue to prescribe caution and vigilance, there is widespread acceptance that the current restrictions cannot continue indefinitely, and that tourism operations will need to resume soon, to some extent, if the industry is to survive. “We are concerned about those destinations with on-going full travel restrictions, especially where tourism is a lifeline and economic and social development are under threat,” says UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. 

Pololikashvili and UNWTO are supporters of this revival, emphasising the importance of tourism to the world’s economies and expressing optimism based on the current trends. “Coordinated leadership and enhanced cooperation between governments mean tourism is slowly but steadily restarting in many parts of the world,” says the secretary-general. “Starting to ease restrictions on travel opens doors for tourism’s social and economic benefits to return,” he added.