UNWTO Expresses Optimism In Safe Restart Of Global Tourism

by Olamilekan Okeowo

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has expressed optimism for the safe restart of tourism as more countries begin mass vaccination drives.

This is even as the UNWTO Global Tourism Crisis Committee met to explore safe travel in the age of vaccines. The meeting focused on the integration of vaccines into a harmonized approach to safe travel and launching a coordinated effort to boost confidence in the sector.

UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, opined that the restart of tourism could not wait.

“The rollout of vaccines is a step in the right direction, but the restart of tourism cannot wait. Vaccines must be part of a wider, coordinated approach that includes certificates and passes for safe cross-border travel. In the longer-term, we also need to restore confidence in tourism. The United for Travel campaign will help us achieve this, providing a clear and strong message that safe tourism is now possible,” he said.

Also, the committee which met at the 8th Global Tourism Crisis Committee, held in Madrid, on 18 January 2021 and within the context of the 113th session of the UNWTO Executive Council, the members of the Committee disclosed that with countries around the world now rolling out vaccines against the COVID-19 virus, this opens a critical window in the fight against the pandemic and to promote the safe resumption of international travel.

They also highlighted the importance of stepping up coordination, within the framework of the International Health Regulations, of vaccination certificates to ensure the implementation of common, harmonized digital-related travel principles, protocols, and documents.

‘This would be in line with the work being carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has reported potential applications of digital technology to enable safe international travel and facilitate arrivals and departures’ the committee stated.

Similarly, the Committee’s own Technical Group, chaired by Greece, alongside a dedicated inter-agency group drawing on diverse parts of the United Nations system and international organizations, are working to ensure measures are implemented, including by governments, to foster their application at every level of tourism.

The Technical Group Chairman Harry Theocharis provided his latest update, showing how concrete steps have been taken to guarantee a harmonized plan of action.

Alongside the Technical Group’s work, the Committee called for support of the OECD’s own initiative aimed at developing a harmonized system of border controls. This would be developed in coordination with UNWTO as well as with WHO and, representing the civil aviation and the maritime sectors respectively, ICAO and the IMO.

The Crisis Committee members also called for firm actions to Support the standardization, digitalization, and interoperability of testing protocols and certification systems.

Members agreed that these should be based on commonly agreed evidence and risk-assessment indicators for origin and destination country or territory.

They also called for the implementation of the CART Take-Off Guidance, developed by ICAO, which was identified as an effective tool for advancing the harmonization of testing protocols and accelerating the establishment of Public Health Corridors (PHCs), in order to advance the harmonization of testing protocols requirements.

Countries were also encouraged to ensure that measures affecting international traffic are risk-based, evidence-based, coherent, proportionate, and time-limited.

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