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African tourism leaders debate the role of the sector as a tool for inclusive growth and community engagement

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The potential of Tourism in poverty alleviation and to induce transformative change has been addressed in Lusaka, capital city of Zambia, in the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Conference on Promoting Sustainable Tourism, a Tool for Inclusive Growth and Community Engagement in Africa.

The Conference, a flagship event of the Africa region for the celebration of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, took place last 16-18 November and was coordinated by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in cooperation with the Government of Zambia. 

According to UNWTO statistical data, the African continent had an increase of international arrivals of 8% in 2016, compared to the previous year. This, together with the increasing commitment of African governments to position tourism in their agenda, reveals the gaining prominence of the sector as well as its strong potential to foster positive change and transformation.

The Conference that was preceded by a technical workshop to revise strategies and approaches to develop sustainable tourism initiatives in the African continent, tackled these issues as well as the potential of sustainable tourism to lead policies to foster communities inclusion.  The summit was attended by more than 200 international and local participants from Angola, Egypt, Jordan, Cabo Verde, Guinea Equatorial Kenya, Mali, Republic of Congo, Sudan, Switzerland, Spain, Union of the Comoros, Malawi, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The event commenced with a Ministerial Dialogue on Tourism, Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development in the African continent, attended by Charles Banda, Minister of Tourism and Arts of Zambia, Ronald Chitotela, Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development of Zambia, Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General, Fatuma Hirsi Mohamed, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism of Kenya, Abdelgadir Dmein Hassan Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Antiquities and Wildlife of Sudan and Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director at the International Trade Center. The session was moderated by Brownyn Nielsen, Editor-in-Chief at CNBC Africa who invited the attendees to showcase sustainable tourism practices in the region and how the sector could help achieve the SDGs and generate benefits for African societies.

The framework of the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals were defined together with the African Union Agenda 2063 as the best scenario to foster sustainable tourism in the continent.

Precisely to this green, responsible and eco-friendly tourism was dedicated the intervention of Charles Banda, Minister of Tourism and Arts of Zambia who emphasized that “sustainability is believed to be the link between the present and the future. As patrons of the tourism sector our role is to ensure that even our children’s children experience the same nature in the form that it currently is and not in a worse off state.”

As commented by Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia, the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is a unique opportunity to highlight the importance of the tourism sector and to promote activities to enhance the contribution of the sector for national economies. The President emphasized the capacity of tourism to contribute to local development and stated that “the Lusaka Declaration is an important milestone in the Agenda 2030 and towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and in the recognition of tourism as an essential development pillar.”

UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, who congratulated Zambia for hosting the Conference as member of the UNWTO Executive Council and Chair for 2019, highlighted that the current world is facing major transformations namely the digital revolution, connecting our minds virtually and globally, the urban revolution, connecting our life style and our livelihoods and the travel revolution connecting us physically and culturally “Today, the world is at a major transformation juncture, rapid and fast change is the essence of our time. The three global forces are leading this transformation”, he added. During his visit, Rifai also declared the South Luangwa National Park of Zambia as a sustainable park.

Partnerships, technology and wildlife conservation at the core

The sessions were organized into four panels tackling Public-Private Partnership, the Role of Technology in the development of tourism, Wildlife conservation and Community Engagement and Air Connectivity in Africa.

The final outcome of the conference was the Lusaka Declaration on Promoting Sustainable Tourism Development, a Tool for Inclusive Growth and Community Engagement in Africa. The document, which places sustainability at the core of tourism development and on national and international development agendas, was adopted unanimously by all participants.

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Restrictions on Tourism Travel Starting to Ease but Caution Remains

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The world is slowly opening up again, new research from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) indicates, with destinations cautiously easing travel restrictions introduced in response to COVID-19. As the United Nations specialized agency releases its Global Guidelines for Reopening Tourism, signalling a transition into gearing up for stronger and better recovery, 3% of all global destinations have now taken steps to ease travel restrictions.

UNWTO has been monitoring the global response to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. The fourth edition of its COVID-19 Related Travel Restrictions: A Global Review for Tourism report, released today, again looked at the measures of 217 destinations worldwide as of 18 May 2020. The research shows that 7 destinations have eased travel restrictions for international tourism purposes. At the same time, several more destinations are engaged in significant discussions about the re-opening of borders.

Caution Remains

The report notes that 100% of all destinations worldwide continue to have some form of COVID-19-related travel restrictions in place. Furthermore, as of 18 May 75% continued to have their borders completely closed for international tourism. In 37% of all cases, travel restrictions have been in place for 10 weeks, while 24% of global destinations have had restrictions in place for 14 weeks or more.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The timely and responsible easing of travel restrictions will help ensure the many social and economic benefits that tourism guarantees will return in a sustainable way. This will contribute to the livelihoods of many millions of people around the world. The sector is a driver of sustainable development and a pillar of economies. UNWTO stresses the need for vigilance, responsibility and international cooperation as the world slowly opens up again.”

Mr Pololikashvili also welcomed the growing confidence in the global tourism sector, noting it stands ready to return to growth. While tourism has been the hardest hit of all the world’s major economic sectors, UNWTO has led a joint response and last week released its Global Guidelines to Reopen Tourism. These guidelines outline the steps governments and the private sector can take to accelerate recovery in the months ahead.

Tourism-Dependent States Locked Down

Looking into global travel restrictions more closely, the UNWTO research shows that, the more important tourism is to the economies of individual destinations, the more likely they are to have introduced complete border closures. In the case of SIDS destinations (Small Island Developing States), 85% continue to have their borders completely closed for tourism purposes.

All UNWTO regions have more than 65% of their destinations completely closed to tourism: Africa (74%), Americas (86%), Asia and the Pacific (67%), Europe (74%) and the Middle East (69%).

The COVID-19-Related Travel Restrictions report also breaks down the level and type of travel restrictions in place, including prevalence of flight suspensions and measures including compulsory self-isolation and quarantine of tourist arrivals.

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Coronavirus: practical advice for safe travel

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As EU countries gradually lift confinement measures, Europeans may be able to travel this summer, provided the health situation and national restrictions allow.

While people will need to take precautions and follow health and safety instructions from national authorities, the European Commission has come up with guidelines and recommendations to help EU countries coordinate the safe lifting of travel restrictions.

  • Book tickets and check-in online to avoid queues, when possible 
  • Respect social distancing during luggage drop-off, security checks, boarding and baggage claim 
  • Fewer passengers may be allowed on board and you might be asked to sit at a distance from passengers who are not part of your household.  
  • When social distancing is difficult to ensure, you might be asked to wear face masks 
  • Food, beverages and other goods may not be available on board 
  • Transport companies may install protective barriers, for example between passengers and a coach driver. You may be asked to board through the back door 
  • Drivers should open doors automatically at every stop, so passengers don’t have to touch buttons or handles 
  • Stations, ports and airports should guarantee regular cleaning and disinfection and provide sanitising/disinfecting products, including on board 
  • There should be appropriate ventilation on all transport 
  • Passengers can choose between refund or rerouting for cancelled tickets. If the transport company offers a voucher, you still have the right to ask for a refund 

In a debate on 28 May, members of the transport and tourism committee called for financial support for the tourism industry to be delivered quickly and suggested a dedicated budget for the sector.

Committee chair Karima Delli (Greens, France) said: “Holidays are upon us. What are we waiting for? More information is needed to know where people can go or can’t go.”

On 15 May, Parliament approved relief measures for the transport sector to minimise the effects of the pandemic on airlines, railways, road and shipping companies.

Is it safe to stay in hotels?

Guests in hotels and other types of accommodation should respect social distancing when in common areas, as well as infection prevention and control measures such as coughing or sneezing into a paper tissue or bent elbow, hand hygiene and face masks.

Tourism facilities should provide guests with clear information and guidance prior to arrival and should have an action plan in place in case of infection in the establishment. They should also ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and good ventilation systems. Hotel staff should be trained in basic infection prevention and control.

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UNWTO Launches Global Guidelines to Reopen Tourism

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released a set of guidelines to help tourism sector emerge stronger and more sustainably from COVID-19. The guidelines highlight the need to act decisively, to restore confidence and, as UNWTO strengthens its partnership with Google, to embrace innovation and the digital transformation of global tourism.

The guidelines were produced in consultation with the Global Tourism Crisis Committee and aim to support governments and private sector to recover from an unparalleled crisis. Depending on when travel restrictions are lifted, the United Nations specialized agency warns that international tourist arrivals could fall by between 60% and 80%. This puts 100-120 million jobs at risk and could lead to US$ 910 billion to US$ 1.2 trillion lost in exports.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “These guidelines provide both governments and businesses with a comprehensive set of measures designed to help them open tourism up again in a safe, seamless and responsible manner. They are the product of the enhanced cooperation that has characterized tourism’s response to this shared challenge, building on knowledge and inputs from across the public and private sectors and from several UN agencies as part of the UN’s wider response.”

Safe and security protocols for tourism recovery

The new guide, a follow up of the Recommendations for Action already endorsed by the Committee, is focused on seven priorities for tourism recovery based on the pillars of mitigating the economic impact, developing safety protocols and coordinated responds and fostering innovation.

The guidelines highlight the importance of restoring the confidence of the travelers through safety and security protocols designed to reduce risks in each step of the tourism value chain. These protocols include the implementation of check procedures where appropriate, including temperature scans, testing, physical distancing, enhanced frequency of cleaning and the provision of hygiene kits for safe air travel, hospitality services or safe events.

Innovation key as UNWTO builds on Google partnership

The UNWTO Guidelines also highlight the opportunity to foster a digital transformation of destinations, companies and employees with initiatives such as the free online training with the UNWTO Online Academy and the implementation of apps such as the Hi Card to improve international interoperability at the airports and hotels. The role of technology in promoting social distancing in hotels and tourist destinations is also highlighted.

This comes as UNWTO strengthens its partnership with Google. Through this enhanced collaboration, the UN agency will work with Google to promote digital learning and online skills training so as to provide new opportunities across the global tourism sector.

Secretary-General Pololikashvili added: “We are thrilled to be working more closely with Google. The past weeks have highlighted the enhanced role technology plays in our lives and furthering the digital transformation of tourism will make the sector more resilient and create opportunities for people all around the world.”

About the Global Tourism Crisis Committee

UNWTO formed the Global Tourism Crisis Committee to guide the sector as it responds to the COVID-19 crisis and to build the foundations for future resilience and sustainable growth.

The Committee comprises representatives of UNWTO’s Member States and Affiliate Members, alongside the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Bank Group and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The private sector is represented by Airports Council International (ACI), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) to ensure a coordinated and effective response.

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