Digital solutions for tourism, innovating to ensure tourism’s contribution to sustainable development, and a tourism start-competition, took centre stage during the ‘UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventure Forum: Middle East”. Held within the 45th Meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for the Middle East, the forum gathered ministers and tourism stakeholders from the region (Cairo, Egypt, 24-25 March 2019).
The Regional Commission was held under the auspices of the Prime Minister of Egypt, H.E. Dr. Mostafa Madbouly, underscoring Egypt’s commitment to supporting tourism as one of its economic pillars.
The Tourism Tech Adventure Forum represents a platform for entrepreneurship and tourism innovation, which gathers leaders in innovation, top-level start-ups and key actors in the global innovation and digital transformation ecosystem. It is geared towards providing solutions to challenges related to digital transformation as a source of employment generation, competitiveness and sustainable development.
The Forum brought together top regional startups Eco View Resort (Jordan), Eco Nubia (Egypt), Fujtown (UAE) and Lebanese Wanderers (Lebanon) and eight national startups from Egypt, supported by RiseUp. These companies pitched their ideas in front of a 5-member jury of innovation and tourism experts.
Eco Nubia of Egypt emerged as the front-runner, represented by Ahmed Yehia, a unique experience that seeks to bring human development trainings to families and individuals is the winning start-up. Ahmed Yehia will receive a grant with StartEgypt, an institution established to inspire and support Egyptian entrepreneurs in the field of social impact enterprises, and also join the winners of the regional UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventures to be held during the upcoming UNWTO General Assembly in Saint Petersburg, Russia (September 2019), for a final pitching session.
UNWTO Launches a Call for Action for Tourism’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Recovery
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released a set of recommendations calling for urgent and strong support to help the global tourism sector not only recover from the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 but to ‘grow back better’. The Recommendations are the first output of the Global Tourism Crisis Committee, established by UNWTO with high-level representatives from across the tourism sector and from within the wider United Nations system.
Recognizing that tourism and transport has been among the hardest hit of all sectors, the Recommendations are designed to support governments, the private sector and the international community in navigating the unparalleled social and economic emergency that is COVID-19.
“These specific recommendations give countries a check-list of possible measures to help our sector sustain the jobs and support the companies at risk at this very moment. Mitigating the impact on employment and liquidity, protecting the most vulnerable and preparing for recovery, must be our key priorities,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
Recognising the diverse realities in each country as well as the evolving nature of this crisis, the document will continue to be updated.
Preparing for recovery now
“We still do not know what the full impact of COVID-19 will be on global tourism. However, we must support the sector now while we prepare for it to come back stronger and more sustainable. Recovery plans and programmes for tourism will translate into jobs and economic growth.” added the Secretary-General.
The Recommendations for Action are the first comprehensive set of actions governments and private sector actors can take now and in the challenging months ahead. Mr Pololikashvili stressed that “for tourism to fulfil its potential to help societies and whole countries recover from this crisis, our response needs to be quick, consistent, united and ambitious”.
Responding today and preparing for tomorrow
In all, this new guide provides 23 actionable recommendations, divided into three key areas:
Managing the Crisis and Mitigating the Impact: Key recommendations relate to retaining jobs, supporting self-employed workers, ensuring liquidity, promoting skills development and reviewing taxes, charges and regulations relating to travel and tourism. The Recommendations are made as a global economic recession looks likely. Given its labor-intensive nature, tourism will be hard hit, with millions of jobs at risk, especially those held by women and youth as well as marginalised groups.
Providing Stimulus and Accelerating Recovery: This set of Recommendations emphasises the importance of providing financial stimulus, including favourable tax policies, lifting travel restrictions as soon as the health emergency allows for it, promoting visa facilitation, boosting marketing and consumer confidence, in order to accelerate recovery. The Recommendations also call for tourism to be placed at the centre of national recovery policies and action plans.
Preparing for Tomorrow: Emphasising tourism’s unique ability to lead local and national growth, the Recommendations call for greater emphasis to be placed on the sector’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Agenda and to build resilience learning from the lessons of the current crisis. The Recommendations call on governments and private sector actors to become build preparedness plans, and to use this opportunity to transition to the circular economy.
About the Global Tourism Crisis Committee
UNWTO formed the Global Tourism Crisis Committee to guide the sector as it responds to the COVID-19 crisis and to build the foundations for future resilience and sustainable growth. The Committee comprises representatives of UNWTO’s Member States and Affiliate Members, alongside the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The private sector is represented by Airports Council International (ACI), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) to ensure a coordinated and effective response.
Calling on Innovators and Entrepreneurs to Accelerate Tourism Recovery
In the face of an unprecedented challenge, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO), calls on innovators and entrepreneurs to put forward new solutions to help the tourism sector recover from COVID-19.
With millions of jobs at risk as the pandemic hits tourism harder than any other sector, the United Nations specialized tourism agency has included innovation in its wider response to the pandemic. That response has seen UNWTO work closely alongside WHO to mitigate the impact and place tourism at the centre of future recovery efforts and liaise closely with governments and the private sector to boost collaboration and international solidarity.
The “Healing Solutions” challenge is launched in collaboration with WHO, further advancing the united response of the wider United Nations system to COVID-19. This global call for entrepreneurs and innovators asks them to submit ideas that can help the tourism sector mitigate the impact of the pandemic and kickstart recovery efforts. In particular, the challenge is aimed at finding ideas that can make a difference right away: for destinations, for businesses and for public health efforts.
Ideas that are ready to implement
Participants should be able to demonstrate how their ideas can help tourism in its response to COVID-19. Ideas must also have been piloted and be ready to scale-up, with a business plan in place and the potential to be implemented in several countries.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili explains: “Tourism is the sector that has been hit the hardest by COVID-19. Our response needs to be strong and united. We also need to embrace innovation. I call on all entrepreneurs and innovators with ideas that are developed and ready to be put into action to share them with us. In particular, we want to hear ideas that will help communities recover from this crisis, economically and socially, as well as ideas that can contribute to the public health response.”
The competition is now live and applications close on 10 April 2020. The winners of the Healing Solutions for Tourism Challenge will be invited to pitch their ideas to representatives of more than 150 governments They will also enjoy access to the UNWTO Innovation Network, which includes hundreds of start-ups and leading businesses from across the tourism sector.
International Tourism Arrivals Could Fall by 20-30% in 2020
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released its updated assessment of the likely impact of the COVID-19 on international tourism. Taking into account the unparalleled introduction of travel restrictions across the world, the United Nations specialized agency for tourism expects that international tourist arrivals will be down by 20% to 30% in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures. However, UNWTO stresses that these numbers are based on the latest developments as the global community faces up to an unprecedented social and economic challenge and should be interpreted with caution in view of the extreme uncertain nature of the current crisis.
An expected fall of between 20-30% could translate into a decline in international tourism receipts (exports) of between US$300-450 billion, almost one third of the US$ 1.5 trillion generated in 2019. Taking into account past market trends, this would mean that between five and seven years’ worth of growth will be lost to COVID-19. Putting this into context, UNWTO notes that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by 4%, while the SARS outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4% in 2003.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism is among the hardest hit of all economic sectors. However, tourism is also united in helping to address this immense health emergency – our first and utmost priority – while working together to mitigate the impact of the crisis, particularly on employment, and to support the wider recovery efforts through providing jobs and driving economic welfare worldwide.”
Mitigating damage and planning for recovery
Mr. Pololikashvili added that, while it is too early to make a full assessment of the likely impact of COVID-19 on tourism, it is clear that millions of jobs within the sector are at risk of being lost. Around 80% of all tourism businesses are small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the sector has been leading the way in providing employment and other opportunities for women, youth and rural communities.
Alongside this new assessment, UNWTO underlines tourism’s historic resilience and capacity to create jobs after crisis situations, while also emphasizing the importance of international cooperation and of ensuring the sector is made a central part of recovery efforts.
Since the start of the current crisis, UNWTO has been working closely with the wider United Nations system, including directly alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) to guide the sector, issuing key recommendations for both high-level leaders and individual tourists. To better consolidate and strengthen the response, the Organization has established the Global Tourism Crisis Committee
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