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UNWTO: Restart of Tourism Cannot Wait for Mass Covid-19 Vaccinations

Photo source: UNWTO

Photo source: UNWTO

The restart of tourism cannot wait for mass vaccinations against the coronavirus (Covid-19) to become a reality, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said in a recent statement.

Looking forward as the most challenging year in the industry’s history ends, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said that tourism ends 2020 more united and determined than ever.

Harmonized, consistent travel protocols are essential for restoring confidence in international travel and getting tourism moving again. UNWTO will maintain the momentum we gained in 2020 into the new year,” he said.

Over recent months, through the Global Tourism Crisis Committee, the UNWTO has made political and business leaders listen and make tourism a part of their plans.

“The European Commission has led the way in turning encouraging words into firm actions, most notably with its unprecedented economic support for tourism at this crucial time,” he said and called on governments to do more to help tourism’s restart.

“To show that safe international travel is not only possible but, given the social and economic benefits that only tourism can deliver, essential too,” he said.

‘Now is the time to rethink quarantine rules for tourists’

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. Photo source: UNWTO

Zurab Pololikashvili. Photo source: UNWTO

Pololikashvili highlighted that “without doubt, news of a vaccine against the Covid-19 virus gives reason for cautious optimism”.

However, he stressed that the restart of tourism – and the many millions of people who depend on it – cannot wait for mass vaccinations to become a reality.

According to the UNWTO’s secretary general, now is the time to rethink quarantine rules for tourists, to embrace innovation and new solutions for testing travellers before or after their journeys.

Alongside this, he said, restrictions on travel must be eased or lifted in a responsible and coordinated manner as soon as it is safe and feasible.

“The important steps undertaken to ensure better coordination and refusing to stand still, are the precursors to prepare for the new year. 2021 could be a critical year for the restart of tourism, but only if we continue along this path,” Pololikashvili added.

Global Tourism Crisis Committee

Moreover, the UNWTO’s secretary general said that the Global Tourism Crisis Committee, despite new and ongoing developments of the pandemic, is geared towards accelerating the restart of tourism, always factoring in the most recent situation of global health.

The committee, which was created in March at the start of the pandemic, earlier in December met for a final time in 2020 and called for:

– Support for the World Health Organization (WHO) in its efforts to work with partners to update and review evidence-based guidance for international travel consistent with International Health Regulations provisions focusing on providing guidance for effective, risk-based, and coherent approaches (including targeted use of diagnostics and shorter quarantine lengths or the abolishment of quarantines) that consider transmission levels, response capacities in origin and destination countries, and relevant travel-specific considerations.
– The establishment of internationally agreed evidence-based risk-assessment indicators and their harmonization among countries as is the case of the European Union traffic light system.
– Countries to ensure that measures affecting international traffic are risk-based, evidence-based, coherent, proportionate and time limited.
– The implementation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) CART Take-off guidance and the Manual on Testing and Cross-border Risk Management Measures.
– The stepping up of the coordination regarding the vaccination certificates to ensure a timely definition on common and harmonized principles and protocols related to international travel.

The virtual meeting of the committee was hosted by Portugal ahead of its presidency of the Council of the European Union, beginning in January.

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