What does it take for a full restart on tourism all over the world? A proper vaccination programme and an adoption of digital solutions for safe travel, says the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
In its Covid-19 Related Travel Restrictions – A Global Review For Tourism report, UNWTO states that governments play a pivotal role in ensuring that tourism recovery plans go smoothly in the months ahead. Working with the right networks and organisations are important too.
The report also highlights some updates on global border closures. As of June 1, 29% of all destinations worldwide have their borders completely closed to visitors for tourism purposes. This, of course, includes Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.
More than half the countries from this group, many of which are located in the Asia Pacific, have been completely closed to tourists since May 2020.
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In comparison, Albania, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic (1%) are currently completely open to tourists, with no more restrictions put in place. This is certainly the goal for most countries today.
Meanwhile, 34% of all global destinations are partially closed, and 36% request a negative Covid-19 test result upon arrival. Some of these destinations may also require visitors to quarantine, like Thailand, which opened up its resort island Phuket recently under the “Sandbox” programme.
Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and many others are unfortunately not on the list of countries invited to participate in the Sandbox programme. At least not at the moment.
“The data confirms the trend towards destinations adopting more nuanced, vidence- and risk-based approaches to restrictions on travel, particularly in light of the evolving epidemiological situation and the emergence of new variants of the virus,” the report states.
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Currently, 42% of all destinations have put in place specific restrictions for visitors from destinations with variants of concern, like the Delta strain, or the latest, the Lambda strain. These restrictions include suspension of flights, longer or compulsory quarantine periods and temporary closing of borders.
The report says that destinations with strict entry measures also have low vaccination rates, which indicates that there is a real link between vaccination speed and easing of restrictions.
“In comparison, those destinations that have higher rates of vaccination and where countries are able to work together on harmonised rules and protocols such as those being employed in the Schengen Area of the European Union, are better-placed to allow tourism to slowly return,” UNWTO says.
(Schengen Area is a zone comprising 26 European countries that have abolished their internal borders to provide for ease of travel among its people.)
In analysing the data based on global regions, it seems that 70% of all destinations or 32 countries in Asia Pacific are still completely closed, compared with Europe at 13% (seven destinations), the Americas at 20% (10), Africa at 19% (10) and the Middle East at 31% (four).
Where requirements for vaccinated passengers is concerned, 17% of all destinations around the world specifically mention vaccinated passengers in their regulations. And in most cases, travel restrictions continue to apply to fully vaccinated passengers, though in others, all restrictions are lifted.
Some destinations also state specific vaccine versions in their requirements, though in general, most countries accept vaccines that have been approved by the World Health Organisation.
Recently, the EU announced that only travellers who have been fully vaccinated with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency will be allowed to enter the bloc. This news has caused a bit of worry among some Malaysians, especially those with families residing in the EU.
But earlier this week, the delegation of the European Union to Malaysia relased a statement to clear any confusion people may have with regards to this.
The statement says that the EU Digital Covid-19 Certificate is merely a digital proof that a European citizen/resident has either been vaccinated, has received a negative test or has recovered from Covid-19. “It is not a pre-requisite for travelling within the EU or a compulsory document, but simply a practical tool,” the statement reads.
It adds that entry into the EU is also dependent on the requirements of individual member states, which means that those who wish to enter the EU would need to check entry requirements for the member state or states they plan to visit.
“... these are likely to change over time depending on the development of the pandemic both in the EU and Malaysia,” the statement also says.