The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) hosted a high-level virtual meeting yesterday, bringing together key UN agencies, the chairs of its Executive Council and Regional Commissions, and private sector leaders. Tourism is the economic sector that has been hardest hit by COVID-19 and all participants accepted an invitation from the UNWTO Secretary-General to become part of a Global Tourism Crisis Committee, formed as UNWTO prepares to launch a global guide for recovery. The UNWTO-led Committee will hold regular virtual meetings, reflecting the need for coordinated and efficient action by the private and public sectors, governments, international financing institutions, and the United Nations.
Since the start of the pandemic, UNWTO has been working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to guide the tourism sector as it faces up to the COVID-19 challenge. This meeting, hosted in Madrid but conducted virtually for reasons of public health, further emphasized the call for international cooperation to underscore a united response based on the latest public health recommendations and reflecting the deep economic ripple effect and social cost of the pandemic.
“This unprecedented public health emergency has already become an economic crisis which will come at a social cost”, said UNWTO’s Zurab Pololikashvili. The Secretary-General added that tourism “is the hardest hit sector and all our best estimates have been overtaken by the changing reality”.
Without any certainty over how long this crisis will last or what the final economic and structural impact on tourism might be, all participants were united in their deep concern over the millions of jobs that are at risk of being lost. With small and medium-sized enterprises making up 80% of the sector worldwide, the wider social impact of the crisis will go far beyond tourism, making it a key concern for the international community.
Coordination is paramount
Tourism has proven in the past to be a reliable partner to lead recovery for societies and communities, but only if the economic policies of governments and the support packages of donor and financing agencies reflect how the sector touches on every part of society.
“The livelihoods of millions of people and their families are at stake, be it in urban centres or in remote communities where tourism is sometimes the main income generator and a vehicle for social inclusion, protecting heritage and kickstarting development”, Mr Pololikashvili said.
This requires political recognition and cooperation across ministries, involving the public and private sectors and set against the backdrop of wider action plans by financial institutions and regional bodies.
All welcomed UNWTO’s tagline to ‘Stay home today so you can travel tomorrow’, which is promoted on digital media through the hashtag #TravelTomorrow.
UNWTO recommendations for recovery
In the coming days, UNWTO will release a set of recommendations for recovery. The document will highlight the steps governments and other authorities need to take to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector and to then accelerate recovery.
Yesterday’s meeting will be factored into UNWTO’s recommendations. These will be complemented by a dynamic component aimed at engaging with innovators across the world through an innovation challenge centred on tourism’s response. Launched with the support of WHO, this challenge will identify new ideas that can be implemented to help tourism return to sustainable growth.
Participants in Thursday’s coordination meeting agreed that this is “a shared challenge that can only be tackled by working together, with recovery dependent on a joint effort on a scale never seen before”.
Global Tourism Crisis Committee
The participants accepted UNWTO’s invitation to be part a global coordination committee which will hold regular virtual meetings to evaluate and advance recommendations as the situation evolves.
The UN’s key tourism related agencies will all be participating, along with WHO and the main representatives of the airline and maritime transportation sectors, as well as the private sector.
UNWTO members are a critical part of this committee, represented through the regional chairs and the chair of the Executive Council.
From within the United Nations, the virtual meeting was attended by WHO Director of Health and Multilateral Partnerships Gaudenz Silberschmidt (sitting in for Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus), the Secretary-General of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), Dr. Fang Liu, and the Secretary-General of the IMO (International Maritime Organization), Mr. Kitack Lim
UNWTO Members were represented by the Chair of UNWTO Executive Council Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Kenya, and by the Chairs of UNWTO’s Regional Commissions: for Africa, Mr. Ronald K. Chitotela, Minister of Tourism, Zambia; for the Americas, Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism, Jamaica; for Asia and the Pacific, Mohd Daud, Undersecretary of Tourism Policy and International Affairs, Malaysia; for Europe, Harry Theoharis, Minister of Tourism, Greece; and for the Middle East, Mohammed Khamis Al Muhairi, Undersecretary for Tourism, UAE. Special interventions were made by Reyes Maroto, Minister of Tourism, Spain, and by Ahmed bin Aqil Alkhateeb, Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia.
Representing the private sector were the Chair of the Board of UNWTO Affiliate Members and also Director of IFEMA Ana Larrañaga; Alexandre de Juniac, Director-General of the International Air Transport Association, (IATA); Adam Goldstein, Global Chair, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA); Agnela Gittens, Director General of the Airports Council International (ACI), and Jeff Pool from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
Global Tourism Crisis Committee Meets Again: Coordination, Vital Ingredient for Recovery
Consistent and harmonized travel protocols, enhanced safety measures and the protection of jobs and livelihoods are the main ingredients needed for the restart of tourism. The Sixth meeting of the UNWTO Global Tourism Crisis Committee reminded participants of the need to work together as the only means of advancing the sustainable recovery of the sector. The meeting produced a commitment to create a new UNWTO Committee on Common Safety Protocols to increase confidence in international travel, as well as firm plans for enhanced consumer protection for consumers and measures to protect jobs.
Setting the tone for the meeting, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili made clear that, with many millions of livelihoods at stake, inaction is not an option, and that the rapid and sustainable recovery of tourism is essential.
“Strong coordination is needed to accelerate the lifting of travel restrictions in a safe and timely manner, to increase investment in systems that support safe travel, including testing on departure, and to sustain and support businesses and jobs. If we fail to address these three priorities, we will fail to restart tourism, and so fail to save millions of livelihoods”, Mr. Pololikashvili said.
This call for coordination was echoed by a diverse range of voices from the top level of politics of all global regions, including interventions from the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism of Spain, Reyes Maroto; Ahmed bin Aqil Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Khaled El-Enany, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities of Egypt; Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Malaysia; Abdulla Mausoom, Minister of Tourism of the Maldives; Rita Marques, Secretary of State for Tourism for Portugal and Jose Luis Uriarte, Sub-Secretary of Tourism of Chile.
Common safety protocols
At a practical level, a proposal for a new set of common travel protocols was put forward by Harry Theoharis, Minister of Tourism of Greece, and welcomed by UNWTO’s leadership and other members of the Committee. Furthermore, illustrating how safe, international travel can return, Marco Troncone, CEO of Rome Fiumicino Airport highlighted the role robust hygiene protocols and innovation can play in boosting consumer confidence.
Along the same lines, ICC Secretary-General John Denton, explained plans for a comprehensive system of testing on departure to raise consumer confidence and take away the need for quarantine on arrival. Alongside them, Adam Goldstein, Global Chairman of CLIA, and a Luis Felipe Oliveira, Director General of Airports Council International made clear the proactive measures undertaken to cruise tourism and air travel safe for both passengers and workers.
Putting people first
Just as people are at the driving force of global tourism, so too has UNWTO stressed that recovery policies must recovery be people-focused. For starters, restoring consumer trust and coherent and standardized international protocols are mutually reinforcing and critical for the return of tourism. The Crisis Committee meeting saw UNWTO announce plans for a new International Code for the Protection of Tourists. This will be the first legal framework to protect tourists’ rights as consumers, harmonizing minimum standards across different countries and ensuring the fair distribution of responsibility to tourists affecting by the pandemic among stakeholders across the sector.
A technical committee for the creation of the Code is being set up and will meet before the end of the month. Alongside this, UNWTO is working to protect jobs and help workers affected by the pandemic find new opportunities. Addressing the Committee Kamal Ahluwaila of tech company Eightfold.ai outlined the new Jobs Factory portal, launched with UNTWO in order to unite jobseekers with employers.
Harmonized travel criteria
Reflecting UNWTOs high-level relations with European institutions, the European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders addressed the Committee to outline plans to introduce common criteria for restrictions on travel across the EU. UNWTO advocated for non-EU Members to be considered part of this movement towards standardisation, particularly the common colour-coded mapping system currently being rolled out for the safe relaunch of free moment. And reflecting UNWTO’s status as part of the wider UN response to COVID-19, ICAO Secretary-General Fang Liu, was joined by representatives from IATA, ILO, IMO the WHO and for the virtual meeting, in addition to representation from the OECD.
About the UNWTO Global Crisis Committee
Leveraging its unrivalled status as the global leader of tourism, UNWTO united leaders from across the sector. From its first meeting, the UNWTO Global Crisis Committee has provided a platform for governments, businesses and international bodies to express their concerns and share ideas for the restart of tourism. The Committee’s composition reflects not only UNWTO’s unique influence and status as a part of the United Nations but also tourism’s importance for every global region and the sector’s cross-cutting nature. Members are drawn from all parts of the world and include government Ministers, leaders and key representatives of International Organizations and UN agencies and from tourism’s private sector.
UNWTO and Expedia Group to Share Data and Insights to Guide Tourism Recovery
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) will work alongside the Expedia Group to strengthen ties between the public and private sectors and drive tourism’s recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see them collaborate on a range of topics, with the common goal of driving recovery and making the sector more resilient and sustainable.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili met with representatives of the Expedia Group in Brussels, on the back of successful talks with leaders of the European Institutions. Highlighting UNWTO’s commitment to strengthening ties with the private sector, this enhanced partnership will see the United Nations Specialized Agency work more closely with the Expedia Group. Joint actions will focus on market intelligence and innovation. UNWTO and Expedia will also work together to promote entrepreneurship and professional education, and in the field of consumer protection.
Secretary-General Pololikashvili said: “From the very start of this crisis, UNWTO has been a strong advocate of close cooperation between the public and private sectors. This enhanced partnership will help improve our knowledge of global tourism trends, allowing us to respond to new challenges and guide tourism’s recovery. It will also help us place innovation and sustainability at the heart of this recovery, ensuring tourism emerges stronger than before.”
The partnership with between UNWTO and Expedia Group will see both parties share data on tourism trends and developments, both at the global and the local scale. This will help inform decision-making, producing data-based policies aimed a tourism’s sustainable recovery and future development.
UNWTO to Harness the Power of A.I to Link Tourism Workers with Jobs
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is to work with California-based Eightfold.ai to help connect tourism jobseekers with employers and so drive the global recovery of the sector.
The new partnership will see UNWTO harness the power of the Eightfold Talent Exchange, a marketplace connecting workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with available jobs. Using advanced deep-learning AI, the Exchange matches people to the right jobs in companies that are hiring, creating a bridge between those looking for a job and organizations that need to hire quickly.
All 159 UNWTO Member States, as well as the more-than-500 Affiliate Members will benefit from direct access to the platform. They will also be able to offer Talent Exchange to workers who have lost their tourism-related jobs due to COVID-19. At the same time, workers can sign up to find available jobs that make use of their skills and experience. Members that have hiring needs also can sign up to post jobs and find talent who can do the job immediately.
Connecting employers with tourism talent
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili says: “The COVID-19 pandemic has hot the global tourism sector hard, and up to 120 million jobs are at risk. However, tourism has a long history of adapting and embracing innovation. This partnership will be a great help to the many millions of people who are dependent on tourism for their livelihoods, while also connecting employers with the very best talent our sector has to offer.”
Kamal Ahluwalia, President of Eightfold.ai, added: “With Eightfold Talent Exchange, we’re providing all members of UNWTO with a platform that can unite Members over a shared goal: getting individuals who have lost their jobs back to work. The AI powering the Exchange understands the capabilities of each person: both the skills that they have from their work experience, and the skills that they could easily learn.”
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