In an attempt to limit uncertainty and difficulty and enable countries to prepare more effectively for a return to safe international travel and tourism in the aftermath of Covid-19, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reached an agreement this week on a plan promoting safe travel worldwide during the health crisis.
The initiative, announced during the annual OECD meeting in Paris, is a flexible and voluntary set of guidelines, not a legal text, said the organization.
It consists of a traffic-light system to classify risks; guidance on how vaccination should be certified for travel for countries accepting vaccination status; testing protocols for travelers; and principles to be applied during the issue of electronic travel passes that ensure privacy protection, security, and interoperability among systems.
It also includes a temporary international cross-sectoral area for knowledge-sharing between governments and stakeholders in real time.
Indicatively, international air passenger transport dropped around 75 percent in 2020 driving global tourism down by around 80 percent.
On average, tourism contributed 4.4 percent of GDP, 6.9 percent of employment, and 21.5 percent of service exports for OECD countries.
Greece, together with Portugal, Spain, Iceland, and Mexico, are among the hardest-hit OECD countries due to their heavy reliance on tourism.
“The OECD is in a unique position to help countries coordinate international action in the context of reopening global travel,” said OECD’s outgoing Secretary-General Angel Gurría in Paris.
“This initiative will help reduce uncertainty and complexity and enable countries to prepare more effectively for a return to safe international travel and tourism,” Gurría added.
Initiated by Spain, the OECD plan supports and complements existing international initiatives, such as the EU’s Digital Covid-19 Certificate, stressing however that it is crucial a consistent approach is adopted across all countries involved.
The OECD goes on to note that countries applying the blueprint may do so unilaterally, through bilateral or multilateral agreements, or via mechanisms provided in other bodies.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) welcomed the OECD’s initiative, saying it “provides a firm foundation for future global consistency and will be key in the fight against the pandemic and safely reviving international travel”.
“We welcome the OECD initiative to safely restart international travel under their proposed framework, which give countries the flexibility to lower or raise their health protection measures while coordinating their responses within the international community,” said Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice president.
“We are pleased that the importance of the private sector having a seat at the table has been recognized, bringing our own unique perspectives and suggestions for action for debate to enable the resumption of mobility,” she added.
The WTTC urged member states to swiftly adopt OECD model, which it said, could “save the global travel & tourism sector and provide a vital boost to the world’s economic recovery”.