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UNWTO Launches a Call for Action for Tourism’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Recovery

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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.

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Statistics to Guide Restart of Tourism in the Caribbean

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From the need for enhanced political engagement to developing relevant expertise, the World Tourism Organization, jointly with the Caribbean Tourism Organization, have united their Members in the Caribbean to address the key challenges they face in making effective use of statistics to drive the restart of their tourism sectors.

Over the course of two days, a regional virtual workshop analysed the importance of tourism data for supporting the sector in the present and helping tourism to restart in the Caribbean in a timely and sustainable manner. The workshop brought together around 130 participants from 23 States, including the leaders of National Tourism Administrations, National Statistical Offices, Central Banks and Migration authorities. The high-level status of participants ensures that they will in turn spread UNWTO’s technical expertise within their own countries, empowering more tourism professionals with knowledge of how best to analyse and use data to guide decisions.  

Through the sessions, the Caribbean tourism community got a better understanding of the fundamentals of tourism statistics. They were also given an overview of UNWTO’s Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) data, as well as guidance on how this can be used to guide decision-making. 

Welcoming UNWTO’s technical assistance, Neil Walters, Acting Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization said: “We recognize the importance of data and statistics in the development of COVID-19 recovery programs and comprehensive sustainable tourism strategies. We thank the UNWTO for supporting our efforts at capacity building in tourism statistics analysis and reporting in the Caribbean.”

The workshop also emphasized the relevance of tourism statistics, both for informing the sector’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic but also, looking ahead, for its role in guiding sustainable development across the Caribbean region. As with every other global region, the crisis has hit the Caribbean hard. According to the latest UNWTO data, Caribbean destinations experienced a 67% fall in international tourist arrivals in 2020 compared to the previous year. Given the reliance of many destinations on the sector, this has placed large numbers of livelihoods and businesses at risk and makes the timely restart of tourism vital.

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2020: Worst Year in Tourism History with 1 Billion Fewer International Arrivals

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Global tourism suffered its worst year on record in 2020, with international arrivals dropping by 74% according to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Destinations worldwide welcomed 1 billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than in the previous year, due to an unprecedented fall in demand and widespread travel restrictions. This compares with the 4% decline recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis.

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, the collapse in international travel represents an estimated loss of USD 1.3 trillion in export revenues – more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis. The crisis has put between 100 and 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk, many of them in small and medium-sized enterprises.  

Due to the evolving nature of the pandemic, many countries are now reintroducing stricter travel restrictions. These include mandatory testing, quarantines and in some cases a complete closure of borders, all weighing on the resumption of international travel. At the same time, the gradual rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine is expected to help restore consumer confidence, contribute to the easing travel restrictions and slowly normalize travel during the year ahead.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “While much has been made in making safe international travel a possibility, we are aware that the crisis is far from over. The harmonization, coordination and digitalization of COVID-19 travel-related risk reduction measures, including testing, tracing and vaccination certificates, are essential foundations to promote safe travel and prepare for the recovery of tourism once conditions allow.”

Recovery outlook remains cautious

The latest UNWTO Panel of Experts survey shows a mixed outlook for 2021. Almost half of respondents (45%) envisaged better prospects for 2021 compared to last year, while 25% expect a similar performance and 30% foresee a worsening of results in 2021.

The overall prospects of a rebound in 2021 seem to have worsened. 50% of respondents now expect a rebound to occur only in 2022 as compared to 21% in October 2020. The remaining half of respondents still see a potential rebound in 2021, though below the expectations shown in the October 2020 survey (79% expected recovery in 2021).  As and when tourism does restart, the UNWTO Panel of Experts foresee growing demand for open-air and nature-based tourism activities, with domestic tourism and ‘slow travel’ experiences gaining increasing interest. 

Looking further ahead, most experts do not to see a return to pre-pandemic levels happening before 2023. In fact, 43% of respondents point to 2023, while 41% expect a return to 2019 levels will only happen in 2024 or later. UNWTO’s extended scenarios for 2021-2024 indicate that it could take two-and-a-half to four years for international tourism to return to 2019 levels.

All world regions affected

Asia and the Pacific (-84%) – the first region to suffer the impact of the pandemic and the one with the highest level of travel restrictions currently in place – recorded the largest decrease in arrivals in 2020 (300 million fewer). The Middle East and Africa both recorded a 75% decline.

Europe recorded a 70% decrease in arrivals, despite a small and short-lived revival in the summer of 2020. The region suffered the largest drop in absolute terms, with over 500 million fewer international tourists in 2020. The Americas saw a 69% decrease in international arrivals, following somewhat better results in the last quarter of the year.

A full overview of the latest global, regional and sub-regional data can be found at the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer and the UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker.

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Opportunities for Women in Tourism Increasing Across Middle East

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Fewer than one in 10 tourism workers in the Middle East are women though this proportion is steadily increasing, new research has found. The Regional Report on Women in Tourism in the Middle East, released today by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Ministry of Tourism of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, highlights the progress that has been made, as well as opportunities to further advance gender equality in the sector.

The new publication, which complements the Global Report on Women in Tourism, Second Edition, was compiled within the framework of the Saudi Arabia G20 2020 Presidency. It highlights the positive steps that have been taken at a policy level in recent years while demonstrating the work still needed to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 in the Middle East, particularly when compared with other world regions.

The key findings of the report show that:

  • 8% of people employed in tourism in the region are women, compared to 16% in the overall economy of the region. At a global level 54% of people employed in tourism are women compared to 39% in the broader global economy
  • Women are well-educated but not entering the tourism workforce.
    Women have higher rates of tertiary education than men yet remain considerably underrepresented in employment.
  • The public sector is leading the way for women in leadership roles.

21% of tourism Ministers are female in the region compared to 23% at a global level

UNWTO Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili, said “Tourism has historically provided abundant opportunities for women’s empowerment all over the world.  In the Middle East, while there is much progress still to be made, our Member States are leading the charge. As tourism restarts, we will work with them to ensure gender equality remains center stage in their recovery plans, empowering women to become financially independent, challenge stereotypes and start their own businesses.”

Gender gaps in employment and entrepreneurship

The reports also shows that in employment, self-employment and SME ownership, women’s participation is significantly lower that men’s across the region with a reluctance towards working in tourism. Concerns over balancing family and work life conciliation and legislative barriers were all found to be among the primary contributing factors for this.

Public sector providing opportunities

According to the latest data, 21% of regional tourism minister positions were filled by women in 2019. The report also highlights a rich mosaic of women in senior tourism positions and a raft of policy level initiatives such as Saudi’s Vision 2030, Egypt’s Tourism Reform Programme and the United Arab Emirates’ Gender Balance Council.

The recent nature of many of these policy initiatives mean it is still too early to evaluate the results, particularly in the private sector. This report aims to act as a benchmark for future research into the effects of these policies and to catalyze further work towards gender-equality. Research is also considerably hampered by the lack of sex-disaggregated tourism data being collected and reported, with participation in UNWTO’s fledgling ‘Measuring the Sustainability of Tourism’ initiative forming one of the key recommendations of the report.

The General Supervisor for International Cooperation at the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Tourism, Ms. Haifa Al-Jedea, said: “Historically, women have played a vital role in tourism, and in light of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, Saudi has made a concerted effort to facilitate and encourage more women to participate in the sector through improved legislation, new policies, education, supporting SMEs and career development. We hope to be a leader for women’s empowerment in tourism and look forward to cooperating with our neighbors and international partners to break any remaining gender barriers in tourism locally and internationally.”

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