The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is urging governments around the globe to renounce the concept of “high-risk countries” amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and instead turn their attention toward how individual “high-risk travelers” are treated at borders.
The group believes world leaders will need to redefine their entire approach to risk assessment in order to revive international business and leisure travel in 2021 and beyond.
“Risk-based on entire countries is neither effective nor productive. Redefining risk towards individual travelers instead will be key for unlocking the door to the return of safe international travel,” WTTC President and CEO Gloria Guevara said in a statement on Friday. “We need to learn from past experiences and crises such as 9/11. We cannot continue labeling entire countries as ‘high-risk’ which assumes everyone is infected. While the U.K. 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,” she added. “Not only does it stigmatize 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.”
According to the WTTC, international consensus is needed on the metrics used to assess risk. From there, the group wants to see officials develop a cost-effective, comprehensive and rapid departure and arrival testing scheme for all travelers.
“We have to recognize this reality and redefine the risk to focus on ‘high-risk’ individuals,” said Guevara. “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. This refocus would avoid exporting the virus and enable the free movement of travelers while still observing enhanced hygiene protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing.”
The ultimate goal is to ensure that only those who are infected are forced to isolate so that healthy travelers are free to enjoy safe travels as the virus isn’t going away anytime soon. “We must learn to live with the virus, as it will take time for the global population to be vaccinated. This is why WTTC has long advocated introducing a comprehensive and cost-effective test on departure and arrival for all international travelers as a way of preventing those carrying the virus from spreading it.”
“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,” Guevara concluded.