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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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UNWTO and Facebook: Leverage Digital Marketing to Restart Tourism

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Facebook have partnered to help global destinations make use of the power of digital marketing as they look to welcome tourists back safely.

Over the past year, the United Nations specialized agency for tourism has been supporting its Member States on a series of initiatives relating to market intelligence and marketing. Now, as tourism begins to restart in some parts of the world, a series of special sessions were held jointly with Facebook to deliver a range of key insights into how the effective use of digital marketing can help destinations gain a competitive advantage in the challenging months ahead.

Three sessions, one each in English, Spanish and French, welcomed participants from 30 countries. The sessions focused on Facebook and Instagram Communication Insights and Best Practices, with participants also given an overview of digital tools and tips for communicating with their target audiences, including through Messenger and WhatsApp. Alongside this, the sessions highlighted the importance of metrics and other key tools in measuring the success of digital marketing campaigns, and role of advertising and creativity in reaching new audiences.

Sandra Carvao, UNWTO Chief, Market Intelligence and Competitiveness, says: “We are very happy to have Facebook on board with us to bring the fundamentals and best cases of digital marketing to our Members. Our partnership will help destinations be better prepared for a new market framework and allow them to use data and digital marketing to reach new audiences and restart their tourism sectors.  

Nicolai Gerard, Facebook EMEA Government Politics & NonProfit Marketing Solution Director says: “We are very pleased to work with UNWTO to help global destinations take advantage of all the benefits that digital solutions and tools can offered. In the times we are living, it is key for the travel industry to implement digital marketing strategies to accelerate the road to recovery.  With this partnership, we believe that travel destinations will gain the necessary tools and skills that will allow them to use all the services available through our family of apps”.

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Advancing Harmonized Travel Protocols and Financing Tourism’s Survival

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has again convened its Global Tourism Crisis Committee to lead the sector in harmonizing travel and health protocols and securing vital financing for businesses struggling to survive an historic crisis.

The ninth meeting of the Crisis Committee advanced solutions to the biggest challenges standing in the way of international travel returning.

Committee members, drawn from political leadership, international organizations, including UNWTO’s sister UN agencies, finance and the private sector, discussed the Crisis Committee’s Recommendations, which focus on four core areas: the resumption of safe, cross-border travel; promoting safe travel at all points of the tourist journey; providing liquidity to tourism businesses and protecting jobs, and restoring confidence in travel.

The virtual meeting was co-hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Opening the proceedings, the Minister for Tourism, His Excellency Ahmad bin Aqil Al Kateeb, said: “Saudi Arabia has been collaborating with partners across the public and private sectors both regionally and globally to accelerate the resumption of international travel. The facilitation of safe and seamless travel is the only way to restore confidence among travelers and tourism businesses, which will ultimately be the drivers of the sector’s recovery.”

Harmonized protocols and building confidence

The Committee backed the proposed EU Digital Green Pass as an example of joined-up protocols for other regions to follow. Addressing the meeting, EU Vice President Margaritis Schinas said that “we can make summer 2021 the beginning of the post-pandemic era, one that is safer, more sustainable, more resilient and more prosperous”. He stressed that “the tourism sector can – and should – be at the forefront of this effort, leading the recovery of the European and the global economy”.

Mr. Schinas also outlined the work being done to raise consumer confidence in tourism, already devastated by issues surrounding cancelling and refunding travel services and noted: “UNWTO’s efforts to develop an International Code for the Protection of Tourists are most welcome”. The landmark legal code is one of several key UNWTO initiatives aimed at restoring confidence in international travel.

Also at the Committee, UNWTO and IATA (the International Air Transport Association) announced the forthcoming launch of a new Destination Tracker. This tool will be available on the websites of both organizations and provide comprehensive and up-to-date information on the restrictions and requirements of airlines and destinations, allowing tourists to make informed choices.  

Recommendations for Recovery

The Recommendations of the UNWTO Global Tourism Crisis Committee highlight the importance of basing policies on current international health and aviation regulations, including but not limited to provisions from the World Health Organization (WHO) and those the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), most notably its ‘Take Off’ guidance and the work of its Civil Aviation Recovery Taskforce (CART). The Recommendations also call for the creation of Public Health Corridors, the implementation of digital health solutions and the development of a common “traffic-light” system as a recognizable risk management framework. In presenting the Recommendations,  the Minister of Tourism of Greece and Chair of the UNWTO Crisis Committee’s Technical Group, Harry Theoharis, said that ”this year we have more tools in our arsenal, including vaccinations, to address all concerns of travellers and people employed in the tourism sector.”

Financing tourism’s survival

Through the Global Tourism Crisis Committee, UNWTO also advanced on its work addressing one of the other key challenges facing global tourism, namely the sudden halt of tourism cash flow and the need to support businesses and protect jobs. Along with ICAO and the WHO, UNWTO is one of the only UN agencies working with the OECD on its International Mobility Initiative. UNWTO is also working closely with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).  

OECD and EBRD again contributed to the latest meeting of the Crisis Committee, advancing coordinated efforts to both support tourism businesses through the current crisis and also to build future resilience and achieve greater sustainability, including through promoting green investments in the sector. Also updating the Committee were the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), with their representatives focusing in particular on the potential role of innovation, green investments in tourism and on supporting businesses, now and during the recovery phase.

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Vaccinate SIDS to Restart Tourism Kickstart Recovery, UNWTO Urges

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is calling for the international community to show solidarity with Small Island Developing States by ensuring they have access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

With tourism a leading employer and economic pillar for many of the SIDS, the United Nations specialized agency has stressed that pledges to ensure ‘nobody is left behind’ in the recovery phase of the crisis must be backed up with firm actions. Given the relatively small size of the populations of the SIDS, the cost of mass vaccinations will be minimal compared to the potential benefits of restarting tourism. Moreover, given tourism’s wide value chain and proven ability to create opportunity for all, the impact of rolling out mass vaccinations and allowing tourism to restart, will go beyond economic benefits.   

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili says: “By sharing vaccines with Small Island Developing States, the international community can help accelerate the restart of tourism in these leading destinations. Due to the size of the populations of the SIDS, the cost of mass vaccinations will be small, but the benefits will be significant. It will restore confidence in visiting SIDS, allowing the many social and economic benefits of tourism to return.”

Secretary-General Pololikashvili made the comments after a meeting with His Excellency Dario Item, Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to Spain, at the UNWTO headquarters in Madrid. One of the 38 SIDS, Antigua and Barbuda is a top tourism destination and is looking to the restart of tourism to protect businesses and jobs and economic growth at both the national and local level. Ambassador Item affirmed Antigua and Barbuda’s application to become a Member State of UNWTO, pending ratification by the upcoming UNWTO General Assembly (October 2021, Marrakesh, Morocco).

According to UNWTO data, prior to the start of the pandemic, tourism accounted for more than 30% of total exports in the majority of the 38 SIDS. In some countries, this proportion has risen as high as 90%. The significance of tourism makes these destinations especially vulnerable to falling tourist numbers, making the timely restart of the sector of vital importance.

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