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Digital Platforms and the Future of Tourism

MD Staff

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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

World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism to Analyse the Sector’s Potential

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The countdown begins for the 5th World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism to be held on 2 and 3 May in Donostia-San Sebastián, organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Basque Culinary Center (BCC). International experts will analyse and discuss the influence and capacity of gastronomy tourism to create employment and promote entrepreneurship and how to increase its potential in the future.

Stimulating employment

The Forum will explore how the most favourable frameworks can be created in order to stimulate job creation and entrepreneurship throughout the gastronomy tourism value chain. In addition, the speakers will try to identify the most relevant skills for this type of tourism, which should foster synergies among emerging companies, promote the inclusion of disadvantaged groups and take full account of digitalization. The event will bring together speakers and experts from all regions of the world, as well as internationally renowned Basque chefs such as Elena Arzak, who is a UNWTO Ambassador for Responsible Tourism and joint head chef of the restaurant Arzak, and Andoni Luis Aduriz.

In addition, the event will host the presentation of the UNWTO/BCC Guidelines for the Development of Gastronomy Tourism.

Sessions and startups

The forum will open with a high-level panel with ministers and secretaries of state from countries that have included gastronomy tourism as part of their strategies, such as Cyprus, Slovenia or Spain, among others. Under the theme, “Public policies as key ingredients to promote gastronomy tourism”, the participants will discuss the necessary political framework for the development of gastronomy tourism as well as its capacity to create jobs and promote entrepreneurship.

In addition to shedding light on the competencies needed to meet the demands of gastronomy tourists, the sessions will encourage the creation of environments that stimulate entrepreneurship, that connect emerging companies and better integrate disadvantaged groups in the labour market. Issues related to local communities or to under-represented groups, such as women, youth and persons with disabilities, will also be discussed. In addition, topics such as the digitalization of the sector will also be analysed in order to identify the new opportunities they offer to companies. In addition, the latest advances in the creation of the necessary framework to stimulate entrepreneurship will be presented, connecting the different ecosystems with the startups that are part of the value chain of gastronomy tourism.

In this context, the five finalist startups of the First Global Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition, organized by the UNWTO and the BCC, will present the most innovative projects in line with the UNWTO’s strategy and the contribution of gastronomy tourism to the sustainable development goals.

The programme of the Forum is complemented by nine visits that will allow the participants to take part in different experiences related to gastronomy in the Basque Country.

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Tourism

The Future of Air Transport and Development in Africa

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The First Ministerial Conference on Air Transport and Tourism in Africa co-organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Government of Cabo Verde was held in Sal Island, Cabo Verde, attracting over 20 Ministers of Tourism, Transport and Aviation from Africa.

Within the framework of both the tourism and aviation sectors, the event focussed on bringing key players together to define a unified process for sustainable development. Amongst the topics discussed were proposals that would enable the African States to maximize and balance the benefits of tourism and aviation services throughout the region and obstacles that the region currently faces.

Opening the ceremony, H.E. Jorge Carlos Fonseca, President of Cabo Verde spoke of his nation’s difficulties facing his nation, placing particular emphasis on weakened infrastructure in Cabo Verde and an overall lack of coordination within the region; adding that: “This is a very serious obstacle to the goal of making Africa a tourism destination of excellence and the first choice for people from other continents.”

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili welcomed the joint event as two naturally connected sectors, stating “this symbiotic relationship is mutually reinforcing and interdependent. This is especially true for a small island developing state such as Cabo Verde, which is almost fully dependent on air transport access.” He added that “the recent agreement between Cabo Verde Airlines and IcelandAir is a step towards an Atlantic Hub based on the island of Sal. It allows the expansion of Cabo Verde Airlines while representing an efficient public-private partnership”.

Upon closing the event, the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, H.E. Mr. Ulisses Correia e Silva, hailed the new focus on air transport and tourism as progress for the nation and stressed the importance of creating a framework for the development of air transport and tourism in Africa. The Prime Minister urged African authorities to join together to improve connectivity within the region.

The President of the ICAO Council, Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, suggested that this unique joint event between the two organizations was long overdue and has been a testimony to the new dynamics that are taking shape between tourism and air transport in Africa.

The conference concluded with the approval and adoption of the Ministerial Declaration and Action Plan on Air Transport and Tourism Development in Africa by all ministers in attendance. The Declaration outlines the direction that the signing governments will take in order to advance innovative, sustainable solutions to foster the development of air connectivity and seamless travel in the African continent while building a common understanding and response to the business imperatives through strengthened dialogue between the two sectors.

The conference saw the participation of 300 participants, including 21 Ministers of Tourism, Transport, and Aviation from 34 Member States and 29 International organisations.

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Balearic Islands Poised to Become First Tourism Destination Developed Under 2030 Agenda

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Deploying new resources and actions for the progressive adaptation of the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera) to the objectives of the 2030 Agenda, is one of the main objectives of the agreement signed between the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the IMPULSA BALEARS Foundation. Its aim is to jumpstart the process of the strategic reformulation of tourism in order to make an effective contribution to sustainable development. 

The planning and execution of new projects focused on local sustainability taking into account the tourism production and consumption patterns of the Balearic Islands, close relations with regional actors, harnessing public-private synergies, and the generation of strategic knowledge on the part of the foundation, are among the key features of this cooperation with the UNWTO, as the United Nations agency responsible for promoting tourism as a vehicle for sustainable development.

The establishment of circular economy guidelines in the hotel sector of the Islands and the identification of best practices already being implemented in this regard are among the first initiatives of the agreement. The objectives are to establish a specific approach to the relationship between hotel activity and its surrounding environment, to obtain intelligence that facilitates decision-making in the implementation of responsible consumption and production measures in line with the 2030 Agenda, and to lay down a strategic framework to activate the network of companies in the sector and other stakeholders.

The memorandum of understanding, signed by UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, and the President of IMPULSA BALEARS, Carmen Planas, will be in force until 31 December 2021.

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