The third cultural tourism conference (3-5 December) organized jointly between the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) concluded today in Istanbul, Turkey. Participants declared their support for cultural tourism as a driver for safeguarding living heritage, catalyzing creativity in cities, and spreading tourism’s socioeconomic benefits to all.
Organized with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey under the theme ‘for the Benefit of All’, the conference explored the potential of the tourism and culture partnership, along with new trends in technology and visitor management, to bring the widest range of benefits to visitors and host communities while safeguarding cultural values.
A key conclusion from the conference was the need for a clear and strong link between tourism, culture and local community stakeholders. Cultural tourism policies and strategies must consider the perspectives and interests of local communities, who can also assist governance bodies in balancing tourism development with heritage conservation and safeguarding. Channelling tourism revenues into cultural preservation and community development was identified as a key governance challenge.
President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca of Malta addressed the conference at its opening, reinforcing that: “In today’s world, tourism diplomacy is becoming more important to foster understanding, and culture is key to achieving this”.
UNESCO Deputy Director-General Xing Qu affirmed tourism’s essential role, stating: “Tourism provides a tremendous opportunity to support local economic development, while breaking down barriers between people. Harnessing creativity and technological innovation, as well as safeguarding heritage is essential for promoting responsible and sustainable tourism to support and unify communities for years to come.”
“Culture is one of the drivers of tourism growth, so protecting cultural heritage and promoting tourism for sustainable development are part of the same equation. That 30-plus ministers from around the world are gathered here proves the place of culture in tourism,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili opening the event.
These sentiments were echoed by Turkey’s culture and tourism minister Mehmet Ersoy. “The culture and tourism partnership provides a framework for public-private cooperation, education, investments and sustainability,” Minister Ersoy added.
In a debate moderated by the BBC’s Rajan Datar, the more than 30 ministers present concluded that tourism and culture are indivisible and must work together so that tourism does not suffocate cultural heritage and its benefits for visitors and locals. However, the main challenge is to spread cultural tourism’s attractiveness beyond established sites whilst managing large visitor numbers.
The first session of the conference focused on cultural tourism’s potential to help cities transform into more sustainable and creative environments and destinations. It ended in agreement that the creative and cultural sectors can strengthen and provide innovation in cultural tourism, forging links that turn tourism into a tool to safeguard tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
The second day of the event was given over to the twin influence of responsible tourism and technological advances in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. It was agreed that innovation should be strengthened for better management, promotion and preservation of heritage, as well as to make cultural tourism accessible to all.
During the event, five leading Turkish tourism companies signed the Private Sector Commitment to the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, boosting the efforts of Turkish industry leaders to ensure sustainable development of the sector.
The 3rd UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture will produce a declaration, to be made available soon, outlining the cross-sector commitment of all participants to reinforcing the tourism and culture partnership as an enabler for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda of the United Nations. The next edition of the conference is scheduled to take place in Kyoto, Japan in 2019.
Giorgio Armani and Gino Sorbillo Named New Special Ambassadors for Tourism
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has appointed two new Special Ambassadors as it leads the restart of the sector across Europe. On the occasion of a visit of the Secretary-General to Italy, the first official delegation to travel since the closure of borders in response to COVID-19, UNWTO has named renowned fashion designer Giorgio Armani and celebrated chef Gino Sorbillo its latest Special Ambassadors for Tourism.
In their new roles, both Special Ambassadors will draw on their status and influence promote the work of the United Nations specialized agency for responsible and sustainable tourism. As leaders in gastronomy and fashion, they represent two of Italy’s biggest economic sectors and two of the industries that contribute to making the country a global tourism leader. Since launching his own company in 1975, Giorgio Armani has become synonymous with Italian style. As a chef, Gino Sorbillo celebrates traditional Nepalese pizza and has opened award-winning restaurants around the world.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Italy is one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations. Each year, millions of people visit to enjoy its culture, its fashion and its gastronomy. In return, tourism supports livelihoods and local and regional economies and helps preserve this Italian culture. As UNWTO Special Ambassador for Tourism, Giorgio Armani can help amplify UNWTO’s key messages of the power of tourism to create opportunities and drive growth. As UNWTO Special Ambassador for Gastronomy Tourism, Gino Sorbillo will showcase the unique ability of gastronomy to preserve and promote heritage and give tourists a unique taste of the destinations they visit.”
Upon receiving the plaque, Mr Armani said: ‘I am genuinely pleased to have been honoured in this way by an organisation that believes that people should be encouraged to see the beauty of the globe in a respectful and responsible manner. It has been a sense of responsibility for our community that has helped my country through this terrible pandemic, and this too is what has driven me to play my small part in helping those engaged in the fight against the virus, and the fight against the economic challenges it has posed. A belief in community – the global community – and an appreciation of the humanity we all share are what will help us build a better future for ourselves and the generations to come, through being mindful of the important things in life, like the preciousness of the environment and our duty to protect it. It is therefore an honour to take up the role of Special Ambassador for Tourism.’
The appointments also strengthen UNWTO’s strong relationship with Italy, the first Member State to receive a visit from the organization’s leadership since destinations around the world introduced restrictions on travel in response to the pandemic. The UNWTO delegation led by the Secretary-General will visit Rome, Italy, Milan and Venice and work with both the national and city authorities to support tourism’s restart and ensure this goes hand-in-hand with wider economic and social recovery.
Small Island Destinations in Critical Need of Urgent Support as Tourism Plunges
Without strong support, the sudden and unexpected fall in tourism could devastate the economies of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has warned. Since tourism is a strong socio-economic pillar of many SIDS, the impact that COVID-19 is having on the sector places millions of jobs and businesses at risk, with women and informal workers the most vulnerable.
In the second of its Briefing Note series on Tourism and COVID-19, UNWTO has highlighted the severe impact the pandemic could have on livelihoods in these destinations. According to the latest data from the United Nations specialized agency, tourism accounts for more than 30% of total exports in the majority of the 38 SIDS. In some countries, this proportion is as high as 90%, making them especially vulnerable to falling tourist numbers.
Such a major shock translates into a massive loss of jobs and a sharp decline in foreign exchange and tax revenues, which curbs public spending capacity and the ability to deploy necessary measures to support livelihoods through the crisis, UNWTO further warns.
International Tourists dropped 47% in the first four months
In 2019, SIDS welcomed some 44 million international tourist arrivals and the sector earned US$55 billion in export revenues. International tourist arrivals were down 47% in the first four months of this year.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented disruption. International tourist arrivals have fallen dramatically, and destinations that rely on the sector for jobs and economic wellbeing such as small islands will be hit the hardest. As such, measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on these states and to stimulate the recovery of tourism are now more critical than ever.”
Informal workers and women at greatest risk
The United Nations estimates that SIDS economies could shrink by 4.7% in 2020 as compared to 3% for the world economy.
The UNWTO Briefing Note also highlights the risk posed to those working in the informal economy by the sudden fall in tourist arrivals in SIDS. As a sector, tourism is a leading global employer and, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than half of all workers in the accommodation and food services sector in most SIDS reporting data are women. In many, this proportion is even higher, including in Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago (70%+).
At the same time, workers in the informal economy are at risk of falling into poverty as the impact of COVID-19 is felt in SIDS and other low- and middle-income countries worldwide, UNWTO also warns.
UNWTO Adapts Agenda for Africa to Accelerate Tourism Recovery
Member States from across Africa have shared their priorities for tourism against the backdrop of COVID-19. As with every other global region, African destinations have been hit hard by the restrictions on travel introduced in response to the pandemic. The sudden and unexpected drop in tourist arrivals has placed many millions of jobs at risk and threatened to roll back the progress made in sustainable development.
Now, as UNWTO leads the restart of tourism, African Member States have set out their vision for the sector. This builds on the UNWTO Agenda for Africa – Tourism for Inclusive Growth, the roadmap for African tourism that was adopted at the UNWTO General Assembly in 2019, and is based on the responses to a survey sent out by the Regional Department for Africa.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “This feedback from our African Member States will help us guide tourism through the challenging months ahead. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on tourism across the continent. However, UNWTO is committed to helping Africa grow back stronger and better and for tourism to emerge from this crisis as an important pillar of economies, jobs and sustainability.”
Investment and innovation key priorities at continental level
At the continental level, the survey revealed that the five key areas of the UNWTO Agenda for Africa that Member States would like to see prioritized in order to better support them as they recover from the impact of COVID-19 are:
- Unlocking growth through investment promotion and public-private partnerships
- Promoting innovation and technology,
- Promoting travel facilitation, including enhanced connectivity and tourism visa policies
- Fostering resilience, including through promoting safety and security and crisis communications
- Advocating for “Brand Africa”
At the same time, the survey answers showed that Member States would like to see the part of the Agenda for Africa focusing on Fostering Resilience to be realigned to reflect the current situation. This will allow for a more effective response to the impact of COVID-19 on tourism and to accelerate recovery. Alongside this, Member States across Africa also expressed a wish for UNWTO to focus future capacity building and training sessions on the topics of crisis management and communications, marketing, developing domestic tourism and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.
Sub-regional priorities outlined
The survey also revealed the different priorities of Member States from different parts of Africa. In North Africa, the number one priority is expanding capacity building, including through the provision of more training; in both Western and Eastern Africa, Members named promoting better travel facilitation and unlocking tourism growth through investments and public-private partnerships as their priorities.
Meanwhile, advocating for “Brand Africa” emerged as the number one priority for Member States in Southern Africa, and in Central Africa, the focus is on strengthening tourism statistics systems. Furthermore, the survey also found that Member States from across the continent would like to see UNWTO add a new section to the Agenda for Africa focusing on the promotion of regional and domestic tourism.
Last but not least, Member States also suggested UNWTO undertake a range of actions both at the political and technical level, including strengthening collaboration between governments, facilitate the creation of investment funds to support tourism and provide practical support to SMEs. These actions would be particularly beneficial to countries whose GDP heavily depends on the tourism sector including the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
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