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IATA Chief Says Governments Prolonging Travel Industry’s COVID-19 Crisis

International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General Willie Walsh said “overly risk-averse” governments are prolonging the COVID-19 crisis for the travel and tourism industry.

According to Reuters, Walsh believes many countries were hesitant to start rolling back restrictions until they saw positive data on coronavirus vaccine effectiveness. As more information becomes readily available, the governments are beginning to lift limits on international air travel.


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IATA’s Director General said that mixed political messages on travel have created “incredible farcical confusion” for the tourism industry, while stringent testing and quarantine requirements are no longer necessary due to widespread vaccination efforts.

“There is some good evidence there to be optimistic that, going into the second half of this year, we will see a better environment that will allow more people to travel,” Walsh told Reuters. “The crisis in the airline industry, which was initially caused by a health pandemic, is now really a crisis caused by restrictions being imposed by government.”

Walsh also said the rising number of vaccinated travelers gave him hope the air travel corridor between the United States and the United Kingdom could be reopened in June.

“I think there’s a good reason to be optimistic that we should be able to see the UK and U.S. open transatlantic flying again,” Walsh continued.

On Wednesday, the IATA warned governments that unless they move to digitalize travel health credentials—including vaccine certificates or negative COVID-19 tests—chaos will rule at airports as more and more passengers return to flying.

Earlier this month, data from the IATA suggested that while air travel numbers are still down, they are bouncing back.

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