Published on : Friday, August 21, 2020
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recently urged governments across the globe to come together in order to safely restart the tourism sector, stating that there is “no time for timid leadership.” UNWTO also reported that the tourism sector had to pay a high price for all the COVID-19 related travel restrictions and mentioned that the sudden and rapid fall in tourist arrivals cost the industry an estimated $320 billion between January and May. It shared that the impact of the pandemic on the tourism sector is three times greater than the affect of the 2007-2009 Great Recession, only for the first five months of the year.
Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General, UNWTO stated in an open letter that the reopening of borders is a welcome relief to millions who depend on the tourism sector but it is not enough especially with regard to the recent announcements and measures which seem further and further away from the international coordination that UNWTO has been calling for since the outbreak of the pandemic. He shared that in light of the uncertain times, people around the world need strong, clear and consistent messages instead of policy moves which ignore the fact that everyone can be stronger only when they overcome the challenges together.
He mentioned that leaders and influencers have recognised the importance of tourism for jobs, economies and rebuilding trust but it can only be considered as the first step. He urged global leaders to do everything in power to get people travelling again while maintaining the safety protocols that are part of the new reality. He pointed that UNWTO has mentioned from the very beginning of the crisis that alongside the duty of prioritising the health of their citizens, governments also have the responsibility to protect businesses and livelihoods. However, he also expressed that in several, only the former responsibility has been on focus and hence everyone is paying the price at present.
He also shared that the situation does not have to continue in a similar manner. He noted that as a sector, tourism has a long history of adapting and responding to challenges and mentioned that over the past few weeks, global tourism has led the way in finding and implementing solutions that will help people adapt to the new reality while awaiting the coronavirus vaccine that could be many months away. He stated that solutions like rapid but rigorous testing at ports and airports, as well as contract tracing and tracking applications have the potential to drive the safe restart of tourism.
However, he also informed that these solutions need to be fully embraced and not just cautiously explored. He added that any form of delay will act like a catastrophe and risk undoing all the progress that have been made to establish tourism as a true pillar of sustainable and inclusive development. He also mentioned that it will also hit the most vulnerable members of the societies the hardest as those most shielded from the economic and social consequences of tourism’s standstill urge. He said that short-sighted unilateral actions will have devastating consequences in the long run. He concluded that at this point, people have learnt how to behave in a responsible way, while businesses and services have put protocols in place and adapted their operations and stated that now is the time for the political decision makers to close the gaps, so that everyone can advance together.