According to United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 13), everyone has the right to the freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state, and everyone has the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return there.
International travelers enjoyed and appreciated this right until Covid-19 struck in early 2020. The freedom of movement has been greatly enjoyed by travelers in the last few decades, and the number of international travelers grew exponentially after the end of Second World War. As per UNWTO data, there were just 25 million international tourist arrivals in 1950. The number increased to 1.3 billion International arrivals in 2019.
Let me share an example of Nepal, the Himalayan destination which was looking at 2 million international tourist arrivals as a part of the ‘Visit Nepal 2020 campaign’. This was totally shattered by the pandemic. Interestingly, Nepal was not known as a destination until 1951, a kingdom which was closed to international travelers until then. It was only after the fall of RANA regime that the country opened up and issued the first Tourist visa in 1955.
In December 2020, Nepal government lifted the ban allowing all tourists to enter the country by air. But even now, upon arrival visas, a facility to attract visitors, are not issued easily and mandatory quarantine is in place. Indian passport holders are allowed to enter without any mandatory quarantine which has instilled some ray of hope in the reopening drive.
Nepal’s tourism sector generated Rs 240.7 billion in revenue and generated over 1.05 million total jobs in 2018, according to the annual WTTC report. The travel and tourism’s total contribution to the country’s gross domestic product stood at 7.9 percent.
Needless to say, the country and its Tourism industry are desperately waiting for the Government to soften its stance on visa and quarantine protocols. As more people are getting the vaccine globally, it is pertinent to allow fully vaccinated travelers with upon arrival Nepal visa and no quarantine. The negative PCR report can still be continued to ensure safety of all.
“Quarantine kills the enthusiasm of those who still consider Nepal as their holiday destination for 2021. Without losing more time, we need to make rational decisions to welcome the travelers lifting mandatory quarantine for fully vaccinated ones. This will greatly help the industry in its rebuilding drive and instill much-needed hope among the workforces who are out of work for a year now. It is the absolutely desperate situation to move fast, or else we will miss the bus” – Binod Rai, a Trek operator based out in Kathmandu strongly urges.
It is not only the plight of Nepal. Thailand Tourism industry is also working hard to convince the Government to open the destination safely from July 2021. Many more destinations across the globe are struggling in this battle against the virus as well as lack of timely decision by authority to save the industry. It is absolutely a must to safeguard the health of the locals as well as the service providers in the host destination, however it is paramount to revisit the earlier strategies and come up with practical solutions to operate in the VUCA (Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous) environment of today.
Ancient Stoic philosophers opposed the traditional (Greek) distinction by applying to themselves the term cosmopolitans, thereby implying that their polis, or city-state, was the entire cosmos, or the whole world.
Perhaps it is the right time to embrace cosmopolitan philosophy by making ‘the right to travel is a human right’ true once again, in a safe and sustainable way.