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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 Launches Comprehensive Tourism Recovery Tracker

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As growing numbers of countries around the world ease restrictions on travel, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has launched a new Tourism Recovery Tracker to support global tourism. This represents the latest concrete action undertaken by the United Nations specialized agency as it leads the response of global tourism and guides recovery.

The most comprehensive tourism dashboard to date, the Tracker is the result of a partnership between international organizations and the private sector. Available for free, it covers key tourism performance indicators by month, regions and subregions allowing for a real time comparison of the sector recovery across the world and industries. 

All key tourism data in one place

The UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker compiles all the relevant data in one place, giving governments and the private businesses the ability to track the recovery of  tourism at global and regional level, alongside information on the top destinations for international tourism The tracker includes data on:

  • international tourist arrivals
  • seat capacity in international and domestic air routes,
  • air travel bookings,
  • hotel searches and bookings,
  • occupancy rates and
  • demand for short term rentals

The UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker is available for free and is a collaborative effort by a group of partners including the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), ForwardKeys, STR, Sojern and AIRDNA.

According to UNWTO latest World Tourism Barometer, the massive drop in international travel demand over the period January-June 2020 translates into a loss of 440 million international arrivals and about US$ 460 billion in export revenues from international tourism. This is around five times the loss in international tourism receipts recorded in 2009 amid the global economic and financial crisis.

The Tracker was announced on the back of the 112th Session of the UNWTO Executive Council, which met in person and virtually in Tbilisi, Georgia, to work together to guide the sustainable and responsible recovery of tourism from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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International Tourist Numbers Down 65% in First Half of 2020

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International tourist arrivals plunged 93% in June when compared to 2019, with the latest data from the World Tourism Organization showing the severe impact COVID-19 has had on the sector. According to the new issue of the World Tourism Barometer from the United Nations specialized agency, international tourist arrivals dropped by 65% during the first half of the year. This represents an unprecedented decrease, as countries around the world closed their borders and introduced travel restrictions in response to the pandemic.

Over recent weeks, a growing number of destinations have started to open up again to international tourists. UNWTO reports that, as of early September, 53% of destinations had eased travel restrictions. Nevertheless, many governments remain cautious, and this latest report shows that the lockdowns introduced during the first half of the year have had a massive impact on international tourism. The sharp and sudden fall in arrivals has placed millions of jobs and businesses at risk.

Counting the economic cost

According to UNWTO, the massive drop in international travel demand over the period January-June 2020 translates into a loss of 440 million international arrivals and about US$ 460 billion in export revenues from international tourism. This is around five times the loss in international tourism receipts recorded in 2009 amid the global economic and financial crisis.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The latest World Tourism Barometer shows the deep impact this pandemic is having on tourism, a sector upon which millions of people depend for their livelihoods. However, safe and responsible international travel is now possible in many parts of the world, and it is imperative that governments work closely with the private sector to get global tourism moving again. Coordinated action is key.”

All global regions hit hard

Despite the gradual reopening of many destinations since the second half of May, the anticipated improvement in international tourism numbers during the peak summer season in the Northern Hemisphere did not materialize. Europe was the second-hardest hit of all global regions, with a 66% decline in tourist arrivals in the first half of 2020. The Americas (-55%), Africa and the Middle East (both -57%) also suffered. However, Asia and the Pacific, the first region to feel the impact of COVID-19 on tourism, was the hardest hit, with a 72% fall in tourists for the six-month period.

At the sub-regional level, North-East Asia (-83%) and Southern Mediterranean Europe (-72%) suffered the largest declines. All world regions and sub-regions recorded declines of more than 50% in arrivals in January-June 2020. The contraction of international demand is also reflected in double-digit declines in international tourism expenditure among large markets. Major outbound markets such as the United States and China continue to be at a standstill, though some markets such as France and Germany have shown some improvement in June. 

Looking ahead, it seems likely that reduced travel demand and consumer confidence will continue to impact results for the rest of the year. In May, UNWTO outlined three possible scenarios, pointing to declines of 58% to 78% in international tourist arrivals in 2020. Current trends through August point to a drop in demand closer to 70% (Scenario 2), especially now as some destinations re-introduce restrictions on travel.

The extension of the scenarios to 2021 point to a change in trend next year, based on the assumptions of a gradual and linear lifting of travel restrictions, the availability of a vaccine or treatment and a return of traveller confidence. Nonetheless, despite this, the return to 2019 levels in terms of tourist arrivals would take between 2 to 4 years.

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Global Community Unites to Celebrate “Tourism and Rural Development”

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The 2020 edition of World Tourism Day will celebrate the unique role that tourism plays in providing opportunities outside of big cities and preserving cultural and natural heritage all around the world.

Celebrated on 27 September with the theme of Tourism and Rural Development, this year’s international day of observation comes at a critical moment, as countries around the world look to tourism to drive recovery, including in rural communities where the sector is a leading employer and economic pillar.

The 2020 edition also comes as governments look to the sector to drive recovery from the effects of the pandemic and with the enhanced recognition of tourism at the highest United Nations level. This was most notably illustrated with the recent release of a landmark Policy Brief on tourism from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in which he explained that “for rural communities, indigenous peoples and many other historically marginalized populations, tourism has been a vehicle for integration, empowerment and generating income.”

Historic International Cooperation

For the first time in the 40-year history of World Tourism Day, the official celebration will not be hosted by a single Member State of the United Nations specialized agency. Instead, nations from the Mercosur bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with Chile joining with observer status) will serve as joint hosts. This co-hosting agreement exemplifies the spirit of international solidarity that runs through tourism and which UNWTO has recognized as essential for recovery.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “All around the world, tourism empowers rural communities, providing jobs and opportunity, most notably for women and youth. Tourism also enables rural communities to hold onto their unique cultural heritage and traditions, and the sector is vital for safeguarding habitat and endangered species. This World Tourism Day is a chance to recognize the role tourism plays outside of major cities and its ability to build a better future for all.”

Rural areas hit hard by COVID-10

For countless rural communities around the world, tourism is a leading provider of employment and opportunities. In many places, it is one of the few viable economic sectors. Moreover, development through tourism can also keep rural communities alive. It is estimated that by 2050, 68% of the world population will live in urban areas, while 80% of those currently living in ‘extreme poverty’ live outside of towns and cities.

The situation is particularly hard for youth: young people in rural communities are three times more likely to be unemployed than older adults. Tourism is a lifeline, offering young people a chance to earn a living without having to migrate either within their home countries or abroad.

World Tourism Day 2020 will once again be celebrated by UNWTO’s Member States in all global regions as well as by cities and other destinations and by private sector organizations and individual tourists. It comes as communities in rural areas also struggle with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These communities are usually much less-prepared to deal with the short and longer-term impacts of the crisis. This is due to a number of factors, including their aging populations, lower income levels and the continuing ‘digital divide’. Tourism offers a solution to all of these challenges.  

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