Tourism

WTTC urges governments to abandon concept of ‘high-risk countries’

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is calling for governments to abandon the concept of ‘high-risk countries’ and instead focus on individual travellers.

As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the WTTC said governments should redefine their whole approach to risk assessment to revive international travel.

“Risk based on entire countries is neither effective nor productive,” WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said.

“Redefining risk towards individual travellers instead will be key for unlocking the door to the return of safe international travel. We need to learn from past experiences and crises such as 9-11.

“We cannot continue labelling entire countries as ‘high-risk’ which assumes everyone is infected. While the UK is currently seeing high levels of infections, clearly not all Britons are infected. The same goes for all Americans, Spaniards or the French.

“The reality is much more complex. Not only does it stigmatise an entire nation, but it also halts travel and mobility when many people who test negative on departure and arrival could safely travel without exporting the virus.

“We have to recognise this reality and redefine the risk to focus on ‘high-risk’ individuals. We firmly believe implementing a comprehensive testing regime and the use of technology is the only practical way to restore international travel securely.

“Furthermore, a comprehensive testing program will be less expensive than the economic cost brought on by blanket quarantines and lockdowns.”

Guevara said refocusing on individuals would avoid exporting the virus and enable the free movement of travellers, while still observing enhanced hygiene protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

“We must learn to live with the virus, as it will take time for the global population to be vaccinated,” she said.

“This is why WTTC has long advocated introducing a comprehensive and cost-effective test on departure and arrival for all international travellers, as a way of preventing those carrying the virus from spreading it.

“As always, there is a crucial balance to be struck between the priority on public health with the need to sustain economic activity.

“As well [as] ensuring people are safe and healthy, we also need to secure the health of the global economy and revive the 174 million travel and tourism jobs affected by this devastating pandemic.”

According to the WTTC’s 2019 Economic Impact Report, travel and tourism contributed US$8.9 trillion ($11.5 trillion), or 10.3 per cent, towards the world’s GDP.

Furthermore, the report found that the sector accounted for one in 10 global jobs, providing employment to 330 million people across the globe.


Featured image source: iStock/Janis Abolins

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