UNGA meet to reverse decline in global tourism after the pandemic

Published on : Saturday, May 7, 2022

Abdulla Shahid, the President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), spoke about the need to build a more sustainable, strong and responsible global tourism sector as part of the “long journey” to pull throughthe pandemic.

The first-ever High-Level Thematic Debate on Sustainable Tourism was held at the UN headquarters in New York, where Shahid said that the Covid-19 pandemic stopped the entire tourism industry, giving a “devastating blow to the global economy.”

“In 2019, prior to the pandemic, tourism contributed $3.5 trillion to global GDP. The precipitous drop during the pandemic is estimated to have cost up to 120 million jobs,”said the UNGA President.

Looking past the numbers, tourism plays a deep human role, “travel and tourism connect and unite us… builds bridges and facilitates inter-cultural exchanges…(and) fosters peace and solidarity across continents and borders”, said Shahid.
Ingenious efforts were made to help tourism endure two years of the pandemic, including “travel bubbles”, “vaccine passports” and “resilient corridors”.

“As the pandemic wanes, the tourism sector is rebounding,” Shahid said, speaking of “the human need to connect, to explore, to experience. However, as it rebounds, it is important that we reflect on its future direction.”

Shahid said that tourism is economically important, and its effects on the planet like carbon emissions, oceans crammed with plastic, and human impacts on ecosystems and wildlife, need to be thought of seriously.

As per the UN Environment Programme’s Green Economy Report, a “business-as-usual” situationforecasts that by 2050, tourism will generate an increase of 154 percent in energy consumption for the sector, 131 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions, 152 per cent in water consumption, and 251 per cent in solid waste disposal.

Zurab Pololikashvili, the Secretary-General of the UNWTO said that the current energy crisis contributes to the weakness of the tourism sector, stressing that tourism investments are also investments in peace.

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