The United Nations agency specialized in tourism calls on governments to recognize the sector’s unique ability to drive recovery

The year 2020 is a milestone for the United Nations as it marks its 75th anniversary. Simultaneously,  it represents the year for the Decade of Action in the race towards the 2030 Agenda. Although the outbreak of Covid-19 was not planned for, the global response to the coronavirus reinforces the UN’s vocational values of multilateralism, solidarity, constructive analysis and collaboration from all levels of society: from citizens staying at home, to governments learning from each other and applying recovery measures.

In this context, tourism can play a decisive role to help mitigate the impact of the health, social and economic crisis. Given that the industry accounts for 10 percent to global GDP, it is in a prime position to drive positive change. The rate at which tourism was growing before the outbreak was creating prosperity for communities all over the world. It was underway to achieve the 2030 agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. One in every ten jobs depended on the sector. Tourism was outpacing the growth of the global economy. From the 25 million international arrivals in the year 1950, to 1.5 billion in 2019. This number was expected to increase to 1.8 billion in 2030. Today, it is difficult to give an accurate assessment of what the future growth of tourism will be given the rapidly changing nature of the situation.

“Today, it is difficult to give an accurate assessment of what the future growth of tourism will be given the rapidly changing nature of the situation.”

In an effort to lead the tourism sector into one strong unified voice, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) the UN’s agency specialized in the promotion of responsible and sustainable tourism, has convened the Global Tourism Crisis Committee. The organization called upon governments, international organizations and donor agencies to “go beyond words” and place tourism at the forefront of their future recovery efforts. This comes after multilateral organisms like the IMF, World Bank or the European Commission draw up and launch financial and economic responses to the crisis.

The committee, led by UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, has emphasized the strength of tourism and its ability to lead recovery efforts. Among the active members of the committee are the spokespersons of World Health Organization (WHO), World Travel Tourism Council (WTTC), European Commission, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), as well as Ministers of Tourism of Member States and other tourism agencies.

UNWTO encourages members to “increase pressure on world leaders to reconsider tax and employment policies relating to tourism and to help make sure businesses survive, to help drive wider recovery efforts”. With tourism among the most affected and threatened economic sectors, the Secretary-General warns of the negative economic impact of this crisis if governments don’t protect the millions of jobs that are dependent on the tourism sector. So far, UNWTO estimates that there will be a 20% to 30% decline on international arrivals, which is equivalent to a 300 to 450 US$ billion loss in international tourism receipts (exports).

“The underlying purpose of the Committee is to prepare for tomorrow (#TravelTomorrow) trusting on tourism to lead the economic and sustainable growth.”

To guide the recovery, the Global Tourism Crisis Committee released a set of ‘Recommendations for Action’ for governments and private sector actors for the challenging months ahead, such as protecting jobs, especially of women and youth, as well as marginalized groups; ensuring that regional and national taxes, charges and regulations also include travel and tourism; lifting travel restrictions once health safety improves. That said, this report recognises that tourism can also exploit inequality. However, this is an opportunity also to improve regulation.

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a major evolving challenge for every sector of society. It has shaken our core values, beliefs and wellbeing like never before. The underlying purpose of the Committee is to prepare for tomorrow (#TravelTomorrow) trusting on tourism to lead the economic and sustainable growth. 

By Belén Ramírez Llopis

A contributor and member of the Cov360 team

26 April 2020

Relevant links:

Call for Action of the Global Tourism Crisis Committee

Recommendations for Action

Travel Tomorrow Campaign

Impact assessment of the outbreak of COVID-19 on international tourism

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