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UNWTO Allies with Spain to Face the Demographic Challenge

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photo: UNWTO

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) held today in Segovia, the forum “Facing the Demographic Challenge through Tourism and Innovation”, whose opening was attended by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez; Spain’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, María Reyes Maroto; the President of the Junta de Castilla y León, Juan Vicente Herrera; the Mayor of Segovia, Clara Isabel Luquero; and UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili.

Tourism and innovation were highlighted as key solutions to address the depopulation being suffered by the rural environment at the forum entitled “Facing the Demographic Challenge through Tourism and Innovation” in Segovia, which gathered together more than one hundred people with the objective of finding solutions from the tourism sector to combat this phenomenon.

“The UNWTO wants to work alongside Spain to turn the discussion on the challenge of rural depopulation into a conversation about the opportunities that the rural environment represents,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, showing the United Nations agency’s  support in searching for solutions through tourism. He added: “The 2030 Agenda is committed to leaving no one behind, including rural areas and their inhabitants.”

Likewise, he pointed out that as a sector that represents one of every ten jobs in the world—in 2019, the UNWTO is dedicating the year especially to education, the development of professional skills and employment—quality training in tourism and innovation are very necessary to face these challenges and ensure the survival of the rural environment.

The Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, highlighted the efforts being made by the UNWTO and advocated the creation of opportunities in the interior regions of Spain through rural tourism, digital transformation and new models of economic activity. He announced that the Government would review the guidelines of the National Strategy to address the demographic challenge. He said that in the Strategy, “the tourism sector is a key driver”, adding that Spain is “a global power with a large margin for improvement in the interior of the country”, said Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister of Spain.

During the event, leading figures from the political, business and cultural spheres addressed the challenges posed by the gradual loss of population in rural areas. In addition, many experts in the field discussed the role of rural tourism as a tool for socio-economic revitalization, sustainability and territorial rebalancing.

Thus, the first round table, moderated by Asís Martín de Cabiedes, President of Europa Press, discussed on the challenges of overcoming the depopulation of rural areas in developed countries. For her part, Spain’s High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, Cristina Gallach, moderated a second panel of experts focused on the relevance of the tourism sector for sustainability and territorial rebalancing.

Furthermore, various successful cases of public-private collaboration were analysed, with SEGITTUR providing insights in the field of smart destinations.

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Tourism

UNWTO and Greece to Collaborate on Maritime Tourism Research Centre

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UNWTO is to collaborate with the Greek Ministry of Tourism in establishing a first research station dedicated to measuring the sustainable development of coastal and maritime tourism across the Mediterranean.

The new monitoring centre will be based at the University of the Aegean in Greece. From here, experts will capture and collate measurement data and analysis relating to the environmental, economic, and social impact of tourism.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Coastal and Maritime tourism is one of the most important economic drivers within the Mediterranean basin. This new research centre can provide key data to guide the restart and future development of the sector, ensuring it fulfils its potential to provide opportunity for coastal communities and to protect and celebrate natural and cultural heritage.”

The United Nations specialized agency and the Ministry of Tourism confirmed their collaboration on the initiative during the UNWTO High-Level Conference on Coastal and Maritime Tourism, held in Athens and co-hosted by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and Celebrity Cruises.

The Tourism Minister of Greece Harry Theoharis said: “I express my immense gratitude for UNWTO’s support in this endeavour. The Research Center will soon become a reference point for the study and protection of our coasts and seas.”

Pierfrancesco Vago, Global Chairman of CLIA and Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises added: “CLIA is pleased to support the UNWTO research and monitoring centre on sustainability and coastal maritime tourism in the Mediterranean. As part of the cruise industry’s commitment to responsible travel, we are pursuing carbon neutral cruising in Europe by 2050, and we work closely with cruise destinations and coastal communities to support economic growth in a sustainable manner.

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Tourist Numbers Down 83% but Confidence Slowly Rising

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International tourist arrivals were down 83% in the first quarter of 2021 as widespread travel restrictions remained in place. However, the UNWTO Confidence Index shows signs of a slow uptick in confidence.

Between January and March 2021 destinations around the world welcomed 180 million fewer international arrivals compared to the first quarter of last year. Asia and the Pacific continued to suffer the lowest levels of activity with a 94% drop in international arrivals over the three-month period. Europe recorded the second largest decline with -83%, followed by Africa (-81%), the Middle East (-78%) and the Americas (-71%). This all follows on from the 73% fall in worldwide international tourist arrivals recorded in 2020, making it the worst year on record for the sector. 

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili comments: “There is significant pent-up demand and we see confidence slowly returning. Vaccinations will be key for recovery, but we must improve coordination and communication while making testing easier and more affordable if we want to see a rebound for the summer season in the northern hemisphere.”

The latest survey of the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts shows prospects for the May-August period improving slightly. Alongside this, the pace of the vaccination rollout in some key source markets as well as policies to restart tourism safely, most notably the EU Digital Green Certificate, have boosted hopes for a rebound in some of these markets.

Overall, 60% expect a rebound in international tourism only in 2022, up from 50% in the January 2021 survey. The remaining 40% see a potential rebound in 2021, though this is down slightly from the percentage in January. Nearly half of the experts do not see a return to 2019 international tourism levels before 2024 or later, while the percentage of respondents indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023 has somewhat decreased (37%), when compared to the January survey.

https://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/4223532/embed?auto=1 Tourism experts point to the continued imposition of travel restrictions and the lack of coordination in travel and health protocols as the main obstacle to the sector’s rebound.

The Impact of COVID on Tourism cuts global exports by 4%

The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer also shows the economic toll of the pandemic. International tourism receipts in 2020 declined by 64% in real terms (local currencies, constant prices), equivalent to a drop of over US$ 900 billion, cutting the overall worldwide exports value by over 4% in 2020. The total loss in export revenues from international tourism (including passenger transport) amounts to nearly US$ 1.1 trillion. Asia and the Pacific (-70% in real terms) and the Middle East (-69%) saw the largest drops in receipts.

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Tourism

Empowering Indigenous Communities to Drive Tourism’s Recovery

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Photo: Alex Azabache/Unsplash

The cultural diversity and knowledge of indigenous peoples can bring innovative experiences and new business opportunities for tourism destinations and local communities, and help them recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on this, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has partnered with the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance (WINTA) on a set of guidelines, designed to ensure this type of experiences are respectful and led by the indigenous communities themselves.

The new UNWTO Inclusive Recovery Guide, Issue 4: Indigenous Communities, is the fourth set of guidelines addressing the socio-cultural impacts of COVID-19 issued by UNWTO. The partners call for placing Indigenous communities at the centre of recovery plans and for partnerships geared towards gathering accurate data on Indigenous tourism, and how it has been affected by the pandemic.

These recommendations draw on the partners’ expertise and set out solutions for the socio-economic empowerment of Indigenous Peoples through tourism. These include transitioning from “assisting” to “enabling” indigenous entrepreneurship, strengthening skills and building capacities, fostering digital literacy for running tourism businesses, and acknowledging the relevance of indigenous peoples by destination authorities and the tourism sector overall.

The Guide, launched on the occasion of the International Day of Cultural Diversity, builds on the decade-long partnership between UNWTO and WINTA. The two organizations work together to enable indigenous communities untap their tourism potential and promote their success stories. The most recent collaboration, the Weaving the Recovery Project, focuses on empowering Indigenous women through responsible tourism experiences and indigenous artisanship in Latin America.

The recommendations also benefitted from inputs provided by the Organization for the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In recent years, the OECD has also significantly advanced its policy research and promotion of good practices and networks championing indigenous tourism within its Member countries.

UNWTO stands ready to support platforms which reinforce indigenous peoples’ networks, making them the ultimate decision makers of tourism operations affecting their livelihoods.

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