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Digital Platforms and the Future of Tourism

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Tourism is one of the fastest growing and most important economic sectors in the world providing benefits to both host communities and destination areas. In 2017, international tourist arrivals reached a new record high at over 1.3 billion according to the latest UNWTO Tourism Highlights. The sector has now seen uninterrupted growth in arrivals for eight straight years. It also represents 10.4% of GDP and in 2017 the tourism industry supported 313 million jobs or 1 in 10 jobs globally.

Tourism also provides better opportunities for women’s participation in the workforce, women’s entrepreneurship, and women’s leadership than other sectors of the economy.

That is why the World Bank Group continues to be committed to invest funds, knowledge and expertise to support tourism for development.

As a part of the World Bank Growth & Competitiveness Project in the Gambia, a hospitality training center trained 1,235 students and helped increase arrivals by tourists from non-traditional markets by 71% between 2011 and 2015.

In Peru, an IFC Advisory project financed by SECO (Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs – Economic Cooperation and Development) helped streamline procedures for obtaining licenses and permits to start and operate tourism businesses in Cusco. The reforms eliminated 150 unnecessary processes and shaved three years off the business registration process, making it easier for both local and foreign investors to operate in Cusco.

A World Bank Group report on the 20 Reasons Sustainable Tourism Counts for Development explains how sustainable tourism counts not just for travelers, but for tourism destinations and local residents.

The World Bank Group developed the Abraham Path project to bring together fragmented communities along the path in the West Bank through many interventions like training and capacity, which were aimed at generating tourism revenue and jobs, and improving economic opportunities for women. The project has generated 137 jobs, 57% going to women.

Digital technologies and platforms are disrupting the way the tourism sector operates from end to end.   Many low-income economies can potentially benefit from this digital transformation and others are at risk of being left behind if they fail to embrace this moment.

The World Bank Group recently published two reports on the significance of this disruption on tourism and how countries can harness it for the benefit of all. According to the report, Tourism and the Sharing Economy, the annual growth rate for the global P2P accommodation is estimated at 31 percent between 2013 and 2025, six times the growth rate of traditional bed and breakfasts and hostels.

In addition, the second report, The Voice of Travelers, produced in collaboration with TripAdvisor explains how peer reviews and other forms of user-generated content (UGC), facilitated by digital platforms, have become the most important sources of travel information globally—more important than tourism boards and traditional outlets. This joint report is part of an MoU that was signed by the World Bank Group and TripAdvisor to promote the development of the tourism sector that highlights some of the key digital trends impacting the sector to countries and private sector partners.

This year, World Tourism Day is shining a light on “Tourism and the Digital Transformation”— as its theme. The UNWTO is calling on governments and the global community, to “support digital technologies that can transform the way we travel, reduce the ecological burden of tourism and bring the benefits of tourism to all.”

They also can provide new opportunities for women and rural entrepreneurs to improve their market access and financial inclusion. However, many developing destinations have limited knowledge on how to take advantage of digital platforms and mitigate risks. Either constrained by the lack of understanding or knowhow and resources, these economies are not able to leverage digital tools to grow their tourism.

Responding to the global call to promote innovations in tourism through technology, the World Bank Group, will host a day-long event just prior to WTD2018 focusing on Digital Platforms and the Future of Tourism.

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Tourism

UNWTO and Greece to Collaborate on Maritime Tourism Research Centre

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UNWTO is to collaborate with the Greek Ministry of Tourism in establishing a first research station dedicated to measuring the sustainable development of coastal and maritime tourism across the Mediterranean.

The new monitoring centre will be based at the University of the Aegean in Greece. From here, experts will capture and collate measurement data and analysis relating to the environmental, economic, and social impact of tourism.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Coastal and Maritime tourism is one of the most important economic drivers within the Mediterranean basin. This new research centre can provide key data to guide the restart and future development of the sector, ensuring it fulfils its potential to provide opportunity for coastal communities and to protect and celebrate natural and cultural heritage.”

The United Nations specialized agency and the Ministry of Tourism confirmed their collaboration on the initiative during the UNWTO High-Level Conference on Coastal and Maritime Tourism, held in Athens and co-hosted by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and Celebrity Cruises.

The Tourism Minister of Greece Harry Theoharis said: “I express my immense gratitude for UNWTO’s support in this endeavour. The Research Center will soon become a reference point for the study and protection of our coasts and seas.”

Pierfrancesco Vago, Global Chairman of CLIA and Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises added: “CLIA is pleased to support the UNWTO research and monitoring centre on sustainability and coastal maritime tourism in the Mediterranean. As part of the cruise industry’s commitment to responsible travel, we are pursuing carbon neutral cruising in Europe by 2050, and we work closely with cruise destinations and coastal communities to support economic growth in a sustainable manner.

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Tourist Numbers Down 83% but Confidence Slowly Rising

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International tourist arrivals were down 83% in the first quarter of 2021 as widespread travel restrictions remained in place. However, the UNWTO Confidence Index shows signs of a slow uptick in confidence.

Between January and March 2021 destinations around the world welcomed 180 million fewer international arrivals compared to the first quarter of last year. Asia and the Pacific continued to suffer the lowest levels of activity with a 94% drop in international arrivals over the three-month period. Europe recorded the second largest decline with -83%, followed by Africa (-81%), the Middle East (-78%) and the Americas (-71%). This all follows on from the 73% fall in worldwide international tourist arrivals recorded in 2020, making it the worst year on record for the sector. 

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili comments: “There is significant pent-up demand and we see confidence slowly returning. Vaccinations will be key for recovery, but we must improve coordination and communication while making testing easier and more affordable if we want to see a rebound for the summer season in the northern hemisphere.”

The latest survey of the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts shows prospects for the May-August period improving slightly. Alongside this, the pace of the vaccination rollout in some key source markets as well as policies to restart tourism safely, most notably the EU Digital Green Certificate, have boosted hopes for a rebound in some of these markets.

Overall, 60% expect a rebound in international tourism only in 2022, up from 50% in the January 2021 survey. The remaining 40% see a potential rebound in 2021, though this is down slightly from the percentage in January. Nearly half of the experts do not see a return to 2019 international tourism levels before 2024 or later, while the percentage of respondents indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023 has somewhat decreased (37%), when compared to the January survey.

https://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/4223532/embed?auto=1 Tourism experts point to the continued imposition of travel restrictions and the lack of coordination in travel and health protocols as the main obstacle to the sector’s rebound.

The Impact of COVID on Tourism cuts global exports by 4%

The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer also shows the economic toll of the pandemic. International tourism receipts in 2020 declined by 64% in real terms (local currencies, constant prices), equivalent to a drop of over US$ 900 billion, cutting the overall worldwide exports value by over 4% in 2020. The total loss in export revenues from international tourism (including passenger transport) amounts to nearly US$ 1.1 trillion. Asia and the Pacific (-70% in real terms) and the Middle East (-69%) saw the largest drops in receipts.

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Tourism

Empowering Indigenous Communities to Drive Tourism’s Recovery

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Photo: Alex Azabache/Unsplash

The cultural diversity and knowledge of indigenous peoples can bring innovative experiences and new business opportunities for tourism destinations and local communities, and help them recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on this, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has partnered with the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance (WINTA) on a set of guidelines, designed to ensure this type of experiences are respectful and led by the indigenous communities themselves.

The new UNWTO Inclusive Recovery Guide, Issue 4: Indigenous Communities, is the fourth set of guidelines addressing the socio-cultural impacts of COVID-19 issued by UNWTO. The partners call for placing Indigenous communities at the centre of recovery plans and for partnerships geared towards gathering accurate data on Indigenous tourism, and how it has been affected by the pandemic.

These recommendations draw on the partners’ expertise and set out solutions for the socio-economic empowerment of Indigenous Peoples through tourism. These include transitioning from “assisting” to “enabling” indigenous entrepreneurship, strengthening skills and building capacities, fostering digital literacy for running tourism businesses, and acknowledging the relevance of indigenous peoples by destination authorities and the tourism sector overall.

The Guide, launched on the occasion of the International Day of Cultural Diversity, builds on the decade-long partnership between UNWTO and WINTA. The two organizations work together to enable indigenous communities untap their tourism potential and promote their success stories. The most recent collaboration, the Weaving the Recovery Project, focuses on empowering Indigenous women through responsible tourism experiences and indigenous artisanship in Latin America.

The recommendations also benefitted from inputs provided by the Organization for the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In recent years, the OECD has also significantly advanced its policy research and promotion of good practices and networks championing indigenous tourism within its Member countries.

UNWTO stands ready to support platforms which reinforce indigenous peoples’ networks, making them the ultimate decision makers of tourism operations affecting their livelihoods.

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