LIMERICK — The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a United Nations agency, on Tuesday criticized governments for being “overly focused” on health and described as “not enough” the “re-opening of borders to tourism” seen to date.
The agency wants governments “to do everything they can to get people travelling again,” citing the “the sudden and rapid fall in tourist arrivals” caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Governments have a “responsibility to protect businesses and livelihoods,” the Madrid-based agency said, pointing to estimates published in July that showed the collapse in travel between January and May as having cost up to 320 billion dollars – three times the losses to tourism incurred during the 2007-09 financial crisis and equivalent to Colombia’s gross domestic product.
After coronavirus case numbers surged in March, the World Health Organization, another UN agency, declared the outbreak to be a pandemic.
Countries imposed lockdowns and border curbs culminating in international traveller numbers falling 98 per cent year-on-year in May, the UNTWO said.
Authorities should now “fully embrace” preventive measures such as “rapid but rigorous testing at ports and airports” as well as tracing and tracking apps – which, the UNWTO said, “have the potential to drive the safe restart of tourism.”
While European restrictions were loosened from June after new daily case numbers dropped, many Asian borders remain closed to tourists.
Countries such as Singapore introduced travel restrictions as early as January – shortly after word of a virus outbreak emerged in China, source of around a fifth of Singapore’s visitors.
More than 774,000 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded worldwide, according to official data collated by Johns Hopkins University.Show