Travel measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 have not worked, said sector associations worldwide this week, welcoming a call by the World Health Organization (WHO) for restrictions on travel to be lifted or eased and urging for a harmonized approach.
WHO has said that restrictions on travel are not only ineffective but also counter-productive after citing new evidence on the fast spread of the Omicron variant
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) welcomed the announcement saying WHO was echoing the sector’s recuring warning against the use of blanket restrictions.
During the 10th meeting of the WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee in Geneva earlier this month, officials concluded that restrictive measures have done little to stop the spread of new variants and instead have caused social and economic harm, most notably in developing states. The Committee also added that measures can “discourage transparent and rapid reporting of emerging variants of concern”.
“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,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
Pololikashvili went on to add that the “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.”
Calls for Coordinated Approach to Travel
In the meantime, global transport and tourism associations are once again urging EU member states to align their travel rules so that passengers and businesses receive coherent information and can operate in a stable and safe environment before spring.
The associations, which include Airlines for Europe (A4E), ACI EUROPE, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA), European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), eu travel tech and ETOA, expressed concern over an emerging new patchwork of rules across Europe aimed at addressing Omicron.
“Although the Commission recommends EU member states to apply the same DCC validity period for intra-EU travel and national level, the emerging discrepancies are worrying,” said the associations in a joint statement issued this week.
“Inconsistency in travel restrictions across the EU directly impinges on individual passengers and businesses to schedule future trips and holiday bookings. The transport and tourism industry still sees booking rates at least 30 per cent below 2021 levels,” they said.