Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
2nd Mar 2022

UN tourism body joins call against blanket travel restrictions

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • Leading global bodies for public health and international tourism are arguing against blanket travel restrictions
  • They propose instead that any travel restrictions be targeted and evidence-based, in part because of the important of international travel to the global economy and to economic recovery following the pandemic

The latest data release from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) finds that global tourism experienced a modest 4% increase in 2021, for a total of 415 million travellers during the year (versus 400 million in 2020). It is fair to say, however, that 2020 is a poor reference point: it stands as the worst year on record for global tourism with a year-over-year decline in international arrivals of 73% from pre-pandemic levels.

Another recent UN report, meanwhile, points out that the global economic recovery is in danger of losing momentum this year due to persistent labour market gaps, continuing supply chain issues, and rising inflation. After expanding by 5.5% in 2021, the global economy is projected to grow by only 4% in 2022 and 3.5% in 2023, says the 2022 edition of the United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects Report, which was released last month.

The scale and pace of recovery in international tourism will figure prominently in real economic growth this year. "Given its importance as a major export category (prior to the pandemic tourism was the third largest in the world, after fuels and chemicals), and recognizing its role as a source of employment and economic development, the sector’s recovery is expected to drive growth in every world region," says the UNWTO.

Those findings provide the backdrop for another recent statement from the world travel body, which, has added its voice to the growing calls – including most notably from the World Health Organization (WHO) – for an end to blanket travel restrictions. The WHO has puts its concerns about blanket restrictions on the record, most recently at its 19 January meetings in Geneva, saying that they can cause economic and social harm while also discouraging "transparent and rapid reporting of emerging Variants of Concern”.

“It is imperative we restart tourism and so kickstart recovery and get back on track towards meeting the [UN Sustainable Development Goals],” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. "When it comes to stopping the spread of new virus variants, blanket travel restrictions are simply counterproductive. In fact, by cutting the lifeline of tourism, these restrictions do more harm than good, especially in destinations reliant on international tourists for jobs, economic wellbeing and sustainable change.”

The WHO International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee on COVID-19, argues that all limits on international travel should be based on “risk assessments - including testing, isolation, and vaccinations”.

“As countries ease travel restrictions, health must remain the key priority. By basing their decisions on evidence and a risk-based approach adapted to their specific context, countries can find the right balance between keeping people safe, protecting livelihoods and the economy, and keeping borders open”, said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

While the situation has eased in the months since, the most recent UNWTO summary, published at the end of November 2021, found that one out of five destinations had their borders completely closed at that point, and that 98% of all destinations were then maintaining some level of travel restrictions. Also at the time of that report, only four destinations worldwide – Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Mexico – had lifted all COVID-19-related restrictions completely.

For additional background, please see:

Most Recent

  • Demand for study abroad in Australia, Canada, UK already affected by new international education policies Read More
  • International school openings, enrolments, and revenues continue to expand Read More
  • South Korea announces results of annual evaluation of universities and colleges’ international programmes Read More

Most Popular

  • Canada’s foreign enrolment grew by more than 30% in 2022 Read More
  • Measuring cost of study and cost of living across study destinations Read More
  • Recruiting in the Emirates: Big goals, world-class education, and new scholarships Read More

Because you found this article interesting

Demand for study abroad in Australia, Canada, UK already affected by new international education policies New, restrictive policies concerning international students in the UK, Canada, and Australia are already having a significant impact...
Read more
Research shows that international students now actively evaluate institutions’ environmental records The following article is adapted from the 2024 edition of ICEF Insights magazine. The complete digital edition is...
Read more
Five international education trends that will extend into 2024 Here we are at the end of another fascinating year in international education, and as always, we like...
Read more
Survey finds students more open to branch campus study IDP’s Emerging Futures 4 survey gathered responses from more than 10,000 students between 19 July and 21 August...
Read more
ICEF Podcast: Talk of the town – Live from ICEF Berlin! In this special episode, recorded live at ICEF Berlin, ICEF’s Craig Riggs and Martijn van de Veen are...
Read more
OECD reports that international student flows reached a record high in 2022 The OECD’s International Migration Outlook always makes for interesting reading and the 2023 edition is no exception. The...
Read more
Global satisfaction survey shows US leading Australia, Canada, and UK A return to in-person learning on campus has dramatically improved the experience of both domestic and international students,...
Read more
Survey finds university leaders maintaining a strong focus on international student recruitment Navitas and Nous Group have released an excellent report based on an inaugural online survey of 100 senior...
Read more
What are you looking for?
Quick Links