WTTC: Country-Wide Border Closures Could Threaten Global Recovery

LONDON—The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has warned governments around the world that further country-wide border closures could seriously jeopardize global economic recovery.

WTTC is urging authorities to take a more carefully calibrated approach and introduce localized measures, and only when necessary. This would avoid blanket restrictions, prevent stalling the economic recovery and not cripple the already bruised travel and tourism sector, according to the organization.

WTTC would support the opening of city to city ‘air corridors’ between global financial centers, such as London, Frankfurt and New York. This could help restart business travel, which is crucial to kickstarting the economic recovery.

A number of countries around the world are experiencing local coronavirus spikes. This is forcing a rethink by a number of governments that are now having to consider reintroducing tough and unwelcome new “anti-travel” measures.

According to the latest statistics from Johns Hopkins University, the worldwide COVID-19 death toll has passed 606,000 while the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has now surpassed more than 14.5 million.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president/CEO, said, “Governments should not close off access to other countries in their entirety. Only regional border measures should be imposed if essential, so that the recovery of a country’s whole economy is not jeopardized in the future. The establishment of ‘air corridors’ between financial centers where infection levels are low, such as between London and New York, would provide a vital boost to business travel and aid the economic recovery.

“Enforcing country-wide restrictions is a blunt instrument which benefits no one: neither travelers, the local population, the economy or the travel and tourism sector, which has been left reeling from the impact of worldwide travel restrictions,” she added. “Such measures could undo the significant efforts to revive travel and tourism, which has recently shown encouraging signs of emerging from the worst of the pandemic, and which in turn has brought hope to millions of people around the world who depend upon the sector for their livelihoods.

“Taking a more carefully calibrated approach to strategically combating coronavirus spikes with local measures rather than country-wide closures will contain COVID-19 and preserve a country’s attempt to kick-start their economy by continuing to attract travelers to unaffected areas,” she said. “Travel and tourism is critical to powering that economic recovery, generating one in four of all new jobs last year. Our 2020 Economic Impact Report shows that during 2019, the sector supported one in 10 jobs of all jobs (330 million total) and made a massive 10.3% contribution to global GDP. It is perfectly possible to fight COVID-19 and support the economic recovery through the Travel & Tourism sector at the same time. We urge governments to consider only local lockdowns as the key to opening the door to a successful way forward.”

Restoring business travel, especially via transatlantic flights, is key to help kick-start the economic recovery. WTTC research shows that for two of the world’s top business centers, business travelers account for one U.S dollar in every three spent in New York and one pound Sterling out of every four spent in London.

WTTC has also called for more consistent COVID-19 travel rules to be adopted by European countries to counter confusion by travelers and holidaymakers who faced an array of different types of travel rules advice.

The organization has been concerned that the uneven patchwork of COVID-19 national border restrictions would deter travelers and suppress the resurgence of the travel and tourism sector. However, learning from response to past pandemic outbreaks, governments could avoid delaying the much-needed economic recovery.

However, WTTC warned that unless European governments make a greater effort to align their policies it will cause the recovery to stutter and slow down, putting 16 million jobs in travel and tourism at risk.

Research from WTTC showed that every 2.7% increase in travelers would generate or recover one million jobs in the sector. Governments working together with the right coordinated measures could stimulate an increase in travel by as much as 27%, re-creating 10 million jobs in travel and tourism.