The American Society of Travel Advisors (Asta), the Association of South African Travel Agencies (Asata), the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (Acta), the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations (Ectaa) and World Travel Agents Associations Alliance (WTAAA) are calling on government leaders to expedite the lifting of all country- and region-specific travel bans.
Many countries follow strong biosecurity protocols, including the wearing of masks, physical distancing and vaccination requirements. The addition of new border measures has significant economic impacts on travel and tourism businesses that may not add additional community protection, the associations state.
“Recent and more stringent border closures have severely impacted already complex international travel. We collectively call on global government leaders to follow the best available science when determining border measures, including testing and prohibitions,” they add.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) continues to advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks, saying that, “in general, evidence shows that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions.”
“Travel bans to affected areas or denial of entry to passengers coming from affected areas are usually not effective in preventing the importation of cases but may have a significant economic and social impact,” the WHO states.
This is line with the most recent European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control authoritative and science-based analysis confirming that travel restrictions generally have no effective impact on the spread of the virus in Europe, the travel associations say.
“Governments around the world must prioritise the global distribution of vaccines while continuing to support the freedom of movement using the scientifically tested and sensible measures, including masking, enhanced sanitation protocols, reasonable testing requirements and vaccination credentials,” the associations note.
The global infrastructure to accommodate rapid turnaround times for polymerase chain reaction and other acceptable testing all within the span of a 24-hour timeline for results is arduous in even the most advanced markets. Therefore, testing needs to be widely available and affordable, and it is the duty of governments worldwide to provide the resources and support the science-based approach to testing and vaccination requires, they say.
Further, the associations called for governments to sustain travel-reliant businesses until such time as restrictions are lifted and normal travel patterns re-emerge.
In response to its Covid-19 restrictions, Canada has pledged support for travel-reliant businesses in that country through to May 2022, and the travel associations urge other global leaders to follow Canada's lead.
Given its clear and devastating impact on the global economy, travel restrictions and outright bans cause severe economic harm. The ability to travel safely continues to be a fundamental marker for the travel industry's success over this virus. Restricting access to travel only perpetuates the economic impact and postpones global recovery in terms of travel and multiple other economic drivers around the globe, the associations say.
“Asta, Asata, Acta, the CHTA, Ectaa and the WTAAA call on government leaders around the world to provide dedicated financial support for travel reliant businesses and to lift travel bans as quickly as possible. Loosening restrictions on fully-vaccinated travellers for entry into the US and other markets should continue to be a top priority, but more needs to be done to ensure that travel-reliant businesses have access to immediate relief when government action is the direct cause of economic hardship,” the associations add.
It is critical that government policy is guided by science, not political pressure or the desire to be seen as doing something, since these measures have significant, sometimes irreversible impact on businesses and jobs, the travel associations note.