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San Sebastián to Take World Gastronomy Tourism Spotlight in May

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It was announced today that Donostia will host the 5th edition of the UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism, a forum organized by the UNWTO and the BCC, an Affiliate Member of the UNWTO.

The event, which grows exponentially this year thanks to the support of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism of Spain, the Basque Government, the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and the City of San Sebastián, will be held at the Kursaal Congress Centre on 2-3 May 2019.

This UNWTO Forum has been held since 2015 and is hosted by the BCC every two years. The central theme of this edition will be job creation and the promotion of entrepreneurship in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This stems from the fact that tourism is a huge source of employment and its multiplier effect has a knock-on effect on other sectors, such as gastronomy.

Objective of the Forum

The selection of San Sebastián as the venue for the Forum for a third year confirms the international success of its efforts to feature high-quality gastronomy tourism offerings. A series of presentations by experts from different disciplines and countries will address the current and future knowledge and skills demanded by the gastronomy tourism sector. 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 regard, during the Forum, the winner of the First Global Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition will be announced. The Competition is an initiative of the UNWTO and BCC whose objective is to identify innovation projects that will transform the Gastronomy Tourism sector in the near future.

In addition to shedding light on the competencies needed to meet the demands of gastro-tourists, the Forum will also foster the creation of environments that stimulate entrepreneurship, connect startups and better integrate disadvantaged groups in the labour market. In addition, topics such as the digitalization of the sector will also have a place in the Forum programme, which will analyse the new opportunities it offers to companies.

The UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism was created with the aim of promoting the exchange of experiences between experts in tourism and gastronomy, to identify good practices and to promote gastronomy tourism as a factor of development of countries. In recent years, gastronomy has become an essential element in order to get to know the culture and way of life of a place. After being held in San Sebastián twice, and subsequently in Peru and Thailand, it returns to its place of origin, now more consolidated and with greater institutional support than ever.

San Sebastián at the centre of world gastronomy tourism in May

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, highlighted the ability of gastronomy tourism to contribute to the creation of employment and new opportunities throughout the territory as well as to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Gastronomy tourism is culture and the soul of a destination. By supporting innovation, job creation and entrepreneurship, we are promoting development by valuing its culture and its people.”

Joxe Mari Aizega, General Manager of the Basque Culinary Center, pointed out: “Gastronomy tourism promotes local culture and products and is a source of employment and economic development. To ensure quality employment in the sector, we must take into account its main actors, we must promote knowledge through training and we must create an ecosystem that stimulates entrepreneurship, considering also the new opportunities offered by digitalization. Today, tourism is fundamental for gastronomy.”

In the words of Isabel María Oliver, Secretary of State for Tourism of the Government of Spain: “Gastronomy favours local economic development and sustainability while maintaining traditions and preserving the authenticity of our destinations, and is, in addition, a de-seasonalizing factor.  This is why, at the State Secretariat for Tourism we are working to further promote Spanish gastronomic heritage as an essential part of the Spain’s tourism offerings.”

Alfredo Retortillo, Councillor for Tourism, Trade and Consumer Affairs of the Basque Government, underlined: “Gastronomy tourism is not merely about food, but rather it encompasses a multitude of cultural practices and incorporates ethical values and sustainability. Enjoying it also means getting to know and savouring the landscape, the history of the country, the values and the cultural heritage of the tourism destination. And, undoubtedly, food and wine are among the great attractions offered by the Basque Country.”

The Deputy for Culture, Tourism, Youth and Sports of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, Denis Itxaso, for his part, said: “Being a global leader among gastronomy destinations requires commitment to being at this type of events, where the top chefs and the best practices of gastronomy tourism come together, and being open to discovering new and good experiences, and to creating a fusion between our traditions and techniques and those of others. That gives the Basque cuisine a cosmopolitan character and adaptability, two fundamental characteristics when we talk about tourism markets.”

In the words of Ernesto Gasco, First Vice-Mayor of the San Sebastián: “The World Tourism Organization’s choice to hold its Gastronomy Forum in San Sebastián reaffirms the international positioning of our city in the world of gastronomy. Our chefs, who once again have recently revalidated their constellation of Michelin stars, the quality of our products and kitchens, and our pintxos, rated as the best gastronomic experience in the world by users of a popular travel page… attest to the position San Sebastián occupies in the world of gastronomy. All this is complemented by the important work carried out by the Basque Culinary Center and the international platform represented by the San Sebastián Gastronomika event. We are, without a doubt, an epicentre of gastronomy. This event is another step forward, a definitive endorsement for San Sebastián and its prestigious cuisine to be known all over the world”.

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New tourism study shows need to prepare for future headwinds, as sector shows signs of recovery

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The World Economic Forum released today its latest travel and tourism study, revealing that the sector is showing signs of recovery in many parts of the world after being hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Japan, the United States, Spain, France and Germany are at the top of the list.

The Travel & Tourism Development Index 2021: Rebuilding for a Sustainable and Resilient Future, ranks 117 economies on a range of factors that are crucial to the development, sustainability and resiliency of their travel and tourism industry, which in turn contributes to economic and social development.

“COVID shutdowns have re-emphasized the important contribution travel and tourism makes to many economies around the world,” said Lauren Uppink, Head of Aviation, Travel and Tourism at the World Economic Forum. “As the world emerges from the pandemic, economies must invest in building a strong and resilient environment to deliver the travel and tourism experience and services for many decades to come.”

While overall international tourism and business travel is still below pre-pandemic levels, the sector recovery has been bolstered by greater vaccination rates, return to more open travel, and growing demand for domestic and nature-based tourism. Many businesses and destinations have adapted to these shifting demand dynamics. According the UNWTO, the difference in international tourist arrivals between just January 2021 and January 2022 is greater than arrivals growth in all of 2021.

As the sector slowly recovers from the global health crisis – especially as vaccines become more available and health restrictions lifted – it will be important for the travel and tourism sector to take steps that embed long-term inclusivity, sustainability and resilience as it continues to face evolving challenges and risks.

Despite positive trends, the travel and tourism sector is still facing many hurdles with its recovery. This includes uneven vaccine distribution, capacity constraints, labour shortages, supply chain disruptions and more.

“Government, business and civil society leaders can address barriers to recovery by looking at the different factors that can support the long-term development and resiliency of their respective travel and tourism economies,” added Uppink. “This will require decision-makers to restore consumer confidence and international openness by prioritizing such things as enhanced health and security measures, encouraging inclusive labour practices, improving environmental sustainability and investing in digital technology.”

Travel and Tourism Development Index 2021 results

In this year’s index, Japan takes the top spot followed by the United States, Spain, France and Germany rounding out the top five.

Other than the US, the top-10 scoring economies are high-income economies in Europe or Asia-Pacific. After top-ranking Japan, regional economies Australia and Singapore come in seventh and ninth, respectively. Italy joined the top 10 (up from 12th in 2019) in 2021, while Canada slid from 10th to 13th

Viet Nam experienced the greatest improvement in score (from 60th to 52nd) on the overall index, while Indonesia (44th to 32nd) and Saudi Arabia (43rd to 33rd) had the greatest improvement in rank.

While Europe, Eurasia and Asia-Pacific dominate the 2021 rankings, Europe is the only region to have decreased its average score since 2019, slightly eroding its considerable lead. Sub-Saharan Africa had the greatest improvement in performance, but far more needs to be done for economies in the region to catch up with the global average.

In other regions, Dominican Republic saw the greatest improvement in North and Central America (72nd – 69th) while Uruguay saw the biggest jump in South America (61st to 55th).

The Travel and Tourism Development Index 2021 is a direct evolution of the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index, which has been published biennially for the past 15 years. The change reflects the new index’s enhanced focus on the sector’s overall role in economic and social development and the greater need for stakeholder collaboration and development strategies. Based on an altered framework, methodology and other differences, the 2021 index should not be compared to the one published in 2019. To help address this, the 2019 results were recalculated using the new framework, methodology and indicators; all comparisons in score and rankings throughout the new report are between the 2019 results and the 2021 results of the Travel and Tourism Development Index.

Rebuilding for a sustainable and resilient future

Given the travel and tourism sector’s important role in global economic and social prosperity, investing in the drivers of its development will be crucial in the coming years, according to the publication. As economies look to rebuild their travel and tourism sectors, they should focus on making their travel sectors more inclusive, sustainable and resilient to future risks.

To achieve this, one top enabling factor that should be prioritized is restoring and accelerating international openness and consumer confidence by improving, for example, health and security. This could include more investments into healthcare infrastructure and personnel and greater distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations in lower-income economies.

“Efforts to build favourable and inclusive labour practices, improve environmental sustainability and strengthening the management of tourism demand and impact will help economies ensure strong development of their travel destinations,” said Uppink. For example, sustainable environmental policies that can help protect natural resources have become even more vital as consumer preference for sustainable travel options and nature-based travel grows.

Digital technology will also be vital to achieving all of this. New digital tools can be used to manage tourism flows, optimize visitors’ experiences and reduce overcrowding. Addressing issues such as the digital divide, skills gaps and fully including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in digitalization efforts will be critical to fully leveraging digital technology to improve the tourism sector as a whole.

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UN meets to help reverse ‘precipitous drop’ in tourism

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As part of the “long journey” to recover from the ravages of COVID-19, UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid highlighted on Wednesday the need to build a more sustainable, resilient, and responsible global tourism sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic ground the entire tourism sector to a halt, dealing a “devastating blow to the global economy,” he told the first-ever High-Level Thematic Debate on Sustainable Tourism.

“In 2019, prior to the pandemic, tourism contributed $3.5 trillion to global GDP. The precipitous drop during the pandemic is estimated to have cost up to 120 million jobs”.

Communal role

Though easy to sum up the devastation in numbers, capturing the overall toll on people, communities and services, is much harder, particularly for many small island States and least developed countries, which remain heavily reliant on tourism to fuel public spending.

Looking beyond the numbers, tourism plays a deeply human role: “Travel and tourism connect and unite us…builds bridges and facilitates inter-cultural exchanges…[and] fosters peace and solidarity across continents and borders,” said Mr. Shahid.

Creative tourism

From “travel bubbles” to digital tours, vaccine passports and “resilient corridors”, imaginative efforts were made to help tourism weather two years of COVID.

“As the pandemic wanes, the tourism sector is rebounding”, he said, speaking to “the human need to connect, to explore, to experience”.

“However, as it rebounds, it is important that we reflect on its future direction”.

Challenges ahead

While acknowledging the economic importance of tourism, the Assembly president warned that we must also contend with the harm it inflicts on the planet, such as carbon emissions; oceans brimming with plastics; and the human toll on ecosystems and wildlife.

“We know that many of the communities and historic sites around the world that are beloved by tourists are climate and disaster prone and need support to build resilience,” he added.

According to the UN Environment Programme’s Green Economy Report, a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario predicts that by 2050, tourism will generate an increase of 154 per cent in energy consumption, for the sector, 131 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions, 152 per cent in water consumption, and 251 per cent in solid waste disposal.

“We cannot allow this to continue. We must not reboot global tourism in a business-as-usual manner, we must be more ambitious than that, more responsible than that,” underscored Mr. Shahid.

‘Time for bold action’

Throughout the discussions, the UN official encouraged participants to address their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and enhance the inclusion and empowerment of women, youth, indigenous and other marginalized communities

“Today, I call on all stakeholders to seize every opportunity to transform the tourism sector, and to target a more sustainable, inclusive and responsible approach,” he said.

“Now is the time for bold action and all ideas are welcome”.

Invest in tourism

World Tourism Organization (WTO) chief Zurab Pololikashvili noted that the current energy crisis contributes to the vulnerability of the tourism sector, while maintaining that investments in tourism are also investments in peace.

He said tourism was particularly important to the livelihoods of women, youth and rural communities, and championed the need for a fresh, sustainable balance between the short-term demands of tourists and the longer-term needs of communities.

The WTO official stressed that tourism can drive positive change, and lauded the diverse sectors that have participated in the “landmark” conversation about sustainability.

Supporting the sector

The Director of the World Bank’s Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice, Sameh Wahba, spoke of inclusive, resilient sustainable cities and communities.

He said that as tourism employs 10 per cent of the global workforce, it offers important opportunities for women, rural communities and small businesses.

Mr. Wahba advocated support for nations to promote sustainable tourism to benefit poor communities and preserve culture, heritage and the environment.

Assisting the SDGs

Deputy UN chief Amina Mohammed observed that “tourism is in turmoil,” largely from the COVID pandemic, but also from conflict settings, including Ukraine.

Insisting that sustainability remain at the core of tourism, she advocated for the sector to be transformed into a positive force in implementing the SDGs.

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Air Transport Among the Top Obstacles for Mongolia’s Tourism Sector

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airplane travel

With a unique value proposition to tourists, Mongolia’s tourism sector has substantial growth potential, but faces key constraints in air transport and sector coordination, according to the World Bank’s new study on Mongolia’s tourism sector.

The study, entitled Fostering Inclusive Tourism Development in the Aftermath of COVID-19, analyzes the performance of the Mongolian tourism sector, its regulatory environment, and policy options based on a data-driven economic modeling approach.

Mongolia’s tourism sector has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its full potential is yet to unfold. The country has an abundance of strong niche products for leisure tourism linked to its diverse nature, nomadic lifestyle, culture, and historical legacy,” – said Andrei Mikhnev, World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia. “This new study aims to help the government identify policy priorities for a more inclusive and sustainable tourism sector.”

Tourism is an important contributor to Mongolia’s economy and accounted for 7.2% of GDP, 6.8% of total exports, and 7.6% of total employment in 2019, which was the best year ever, before collapsing in 2020 due to COVID-19. Relative to comparators in Eurasia as well as to countries outside of Eurasia with similar geographic features and/or tourism offerings, Mongolia has been losing market share over the last decade. However, leisure tourism has continued to expand while business travel has declined. Leisure tourists spent less time in Mongolia comparing with similar tourist markets.

The government aims to develop sustainable and inclusive tourism and make Mongolia “the international destination for nomadic culture and tourism”. This may require prioritizing segments and markets with highest value potential before increasing the number of foreign tourist arrivals, the report points out.

The lack of resources allocated for infrastructure development and a protectionist aviation policy impede sector development, according to the enterprise survey of tourism companies conducted in the beginning of 2021. Furthermore, the tourism industry representatives acknowledged policy and sector coordination issues to be among the top issues facing the sector, including the lack of centralized marketing support, national tourism policy implementation, and coordination.

Mongolia’s tourism sector has suffered a loss of MNT 1.5 trillion due to COVID-19 with around 1,600 companies and 88,000 jobs put in risk. We are facing an unprecedented challenge of retaining experienced professionals in the sector and minimizing the impact of the economic downturn. The comprehensive analysis—prepared by the World Bank at this critical time when we need a strategy to revive the tourism sector—will assist us in assessing the current situation and defining the appropriate measures and policy,” – said Minister of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia Mr. B. Bat-Erdene.

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