According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a survey of travel restrictions in the world’s top 50 air travel markets (comprising 88% of international demand in 2019 as measured by revenue passenger kilometers) reveals a growing and very welcome momentum towards the re-opening of borders and relaxation of travel restrictions.
The survey shows that 25 markets representing 38% of 2019 international demand are now open to vaccinated travelers without quarantine measures or testing requirements—up from 18 markets (28% of 2019 global demand) in mid-February.
Moreover, 38 markets representing 65% of 2019 international demand are open to vaccinated travelers without quarantine requirements (but with testing requirements still in place) —up from 28 markets (50% of 2019 global demand) in mid-February.
Repeated surveys of passengers by IATA during the pandemic have shown that testing, especially quarantine, are the significant barriers to travel.
Here are the stark regional variations in the degree of openness among the markets:
|Region||No. of markets in top 50||No. of markets open to vaccinated travelers with no quarantine requirements|
Travel in Asia-Pacific is still heavily compromised by COVID-19 restrictions. While North American and European international traffic rebounded last year to -42% of their 2019 peaks, traffic in Asia-Pacific remained at -88%. However, there has been some progress even in this region, with India and Malaysia among the countries recently announcing the relaxation of restrictions.
The easing of measures reflects a growing consensus that travel restrictions, including border closures and quarantine, do little to control the spread of the pandemic. According to a recent report by OXERA and Edge Health, looking at the spread of the Omicron variant in Europe, travel restrictions may only delay the peak of a wave by a few days.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General: “The world is largely open for travel. As population immunity grows, more governments manage COVID-19 through surveillance, as they do for other endemic viruses. That is great news for a growing number of destinations that will receive a much-needed economic boost from the upcoming Easter and Northern Summer travel seasons. Asia is the outlier. Hopefully, recent relaxations including Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Pakistan, and the Philippines are paving the way towards restoring the freedom to travel that is more broadly enjoyed in other parts of the world.”