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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

Tourism: A Global Force For Growth And Development

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has met in Baku, Azerbaijan, for the 110th Session of its Executive Council (16-18 June). At the meeting, Member States endorsed the Organization’s progress and future plans, as outlined Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, and warmly welcomed the participation of the United States as it explores the possibility of rejoining UNWTO.

With international tourist arrivals having grown by 4% over the first quarter of 2019, following on from 6% growth in 2018, the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism has met in Azerbaijan for the 110th Session of its Executive Council. The Council brings UNWTO Member States together for top-level talks on the direction of the global tourism sector.

“It is an immense pleasure to be in the dynamic city of Baku for the 110th Session of our Executive Council,” Mr. Pololikashvili said. “The Executive Council gives UNWTO Member States a thorough overview of UNWTO’s activities and progress over the preceding year, and makes key recommendations on the path ahead. Our time in Baku offered us the perfect opportunity to discuss the challenges presented by the ongoing rise in tourism numbers, including through the creation of more and better jobs and through driving gender equality. I thank all Member States for their commitment to UNWTO’s mandate and I thank the United States for their presence and openness to the possibility of rejoining and working with us to make tourism a driver of growth and equality.”

Mr. Fuad Nagiyev, Head of the State Tourism Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan, expressed his support for UNWTO’s mission, noting that it was “an honour” for the country to have been chosen to host the 110th Session of the Executive Council.

“UNWTO events, including this Executive Council, are great platforms for promoting the potential of tourism and for forming and developing good working relations with both UNWTO and its Member States,” Mr Nagiyev added.

Fulfilling UNWTO’s vision of tourism as a force for good

Member States warmly welcomed the progress made as UNWTO works to fulfill the current management vision. More specifically, the Five Priorities underpinning Secretary-General Pololikashvili’s mandate include making tourism smarter through embracing innovation and digital transformation and growing competition and entrepreneurship within the sector. At the same time, making tourism a leading source of more and better jobs, and a top provider of education and training is another of UNWTO’s priorities.

Member States meeting in Baku were informed of progress achieved to make tourism more inclusive, seamless and a means of safeguarding and promoting social and cultural heritage and environmental sustainability. Additionally, the progress made in newly launched ‘UNWTO Agenda for Africa 2030’ was welcomed. The bold four-year plan is aimed at realizing the potential of tourism for Africa, with a special focus on tourism as a driver of poverty alleviation, job creation and professional development.

Institutional streamlining and financial sustainability

The Executive Council also endorsed the latest positive financial results and structural reforms implemented under the Secretary-General, which reflect the ongoing drive to guarantee the economic sustainability of the Organization.

At the institutional level, UNWTO reiterated its commitment to diversity and transparency. The Organization is moving ahead in the creation of a new Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics. This Convention brings UNWTO in line with most other UN agencies, and will specifically provide Member States with clear guidelines for making their national tourism sectors drivers of growth and inclusivity..

The meeting in Baku was celebrated as UNWTO prepares for the 23rd Session of its General Assembly, due to be held in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation, in September. Held every two years, the General Assembly is the most important high-level meeting of global Tourism Ministers and the private sector in the world.

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United States moves closer to re-joining UNWTO

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The United States of America has highlighted its support of tourism as a driver of sustainable development. A high-level delegation of the Government attending the World Tourism Organization Executive Council announced that the US is exploring the possibility of re-joining the UN agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and accessible tourism.

The 110th Session of the UNWTO Executive Council is meeting this week in Baku, Azerbaijan, with Member States joined by representatives from the public and private sectors. In a move that has been widely welcomed as a sign of the United States’ commitment to UNWTO’s mandate, the country accepted the personal invitation of Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili to join the talks. Emma Doyle, Principal Deputy Chief of Staff to the President of the United States, announced before the Council that “the United States is exploring the possibility of re-joining the World Tourism Organization”, and noted that her country looks forward to working with UNWTO “to encourage tourism around the world.”

Quoting President Trump, she said that “America First does not mean America alone”, and added: “We believe that there is tremendous potential for UNWTO, with its focus on job creation and education, to be a beacon of innovation for other international organizations.”

Ms. Doyle headed the US delegation to the UNWTO Executive Council together with Ambassador Kevin E. Moley, Assistant US Secretary of State.

A founding member of UNWTO, the United States is currently one of the world’s biggest tourism markets, both as a destination and as a source of international tourists. In 2018, the country welcomed more than 60 million tourists and, according to the most recent UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, the tourism sector grew by 7% over the first quarter of 2019, compared to the same period last year.

UNWTO members welcomed the presence of the United States at the meeting in Baku as recognition of tourism’s growing relevance to global economic growth and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as an endorsement of UNWTO’s leadership.

The 110th Session of the Executive Council comes as UNWTO is undergoing a period of significant restructuring and streamlining. Key priorities of Secretary-General Pololikashvili include closer alignment with the wider United Nations system, financial sustainability and a focus on the role innovation, digital transformation and entrepreneurship can play in the global tourism sector.

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UNWTO and Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia join forces to promote gastronomy tourism

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) together with the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia have announced the launch of the UNWTO Gastronomy Tourism Product Development Project. 

With the aim of advancing the contribution of tourism to economic growth, job creation and cultural preservation, UNWTO is to offer its support to the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia as it develops gastronomy tourism in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

The project will help Ubud design and develop innovative gastronomy tourism experiences that link the public and private sectors. The joint initiative will also help to better connect the various parts of the value chain and highlight the destination’s tourism attractions and products.

“Gastronomy tourism can contribute to a number of the Sustainable Development Goals. As the United Nations specialized agency for global tourism, UNWTO is delighted to be working with Indonesia to grow the gastronomy tourism sector in Ubud.  We are confident that this project will create new jobs and opportunities for local communities while supporting the diversification of experiences and destinations within Bali,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.

This project kicked off on 11 June 2019 with the first field visit by UNWTO experts. The delegation met key stakeholders in the region, held interviews and focus groups with representatives from Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia, the Government of Gianyar (Bali), and other key stakeholders, and visited several gastronomy tourism sites.

This project will be developed with the aim of advancing tourism’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals, especially to SDG 1 (End Poverty), SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and SDG 12 (Responsible Production and Consumption) through job creation, the empowerment of women, and the reduction of poverty and inequality.

In Indonesia, gastronomy tourism draws on a unique combination of history, culture and food. It maintains the rituals and ceremonies involved in traditional cooking processes while at the same time celebrating contemporary gastronomy.

The Gianyar region, where Ubud is located, is one of the main destinations within Bali, welcoming more than 3 million visitors a year or 17% of total visitors to Bali. Ubud was selected for the initiative since it has all the necessary elements to develop a successful gastronomy tourism destination.

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