One in three destinations worldwide is now completely closed to international tourism. According to new data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the latest COVID-19 variants may be pushing many governments to rethink easing travel restrictions. Countries in Asia and the Pacific and Europe have even reverted to total closures to tourists. 

As of the beginning of February, 32% of all destinations worldwide (69 in total) are entirely closed to international tourism. Of these, around just over half (38 destinations) for at least 40 weeks. At the same time, 34% of worldwide destinations remain partially closed to international tourists. 

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Polilikashvili says there is a need to recognise that restrictions are just one part of the solution. “Their use must be based on the latest data and analysis and consistently reviewed.” He said this would allow for the safe and responsible restart of a sector depended upon by millions of businesses and jobs. 

Restrictions Vary by Region

The ninth edition of the UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report shows that regional differences regarding travel restrictions remain. Of the 69 destinations where borders have been completely closed to tourists, many (30) are in Asia and the Pacific. Fifteen are in Europe, 11 are in Africa, 10 are in the Americas, and 3 are in the Middle East.

UNWTO research also indicates that growing numbers of destinations worldwide now require international tourists to present a negative PCR or antigen test upon arrival. They also need to provide contact details for tracing purposes. Indeed, 32% of all worldwide destinations now use this criterion as the leading international arrivals requirement. Most combine a negative PCR with quarantine. Other destinations have made tests a secondary or tertiary measure. 

As UNWTO leads the restart of tourism, analysis shows that governments’ advice will play a crucial role in the restart and recovery of tourism in the weeks and months ahead. Right now, most prefer taking a cautious approach by remaining closed to international tourism.