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New Data Shows Impact of COVID-19 on Tourism

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As tourism slowly restarts in an increasing number of countries, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released new data measuring the impact of COVID-19 on the sector. UNWTO emphasizes the need for responsibility, safety and security as restrictions on travel are lifted. The Organization also reiterates the need for credible commitment to support tourism as a pillar for recovery.

After several months of unprecedented disruption, the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer reports that the sector is beginning to restart in some areas, most notably in Northern Hemisphere destinations. At the same time, restrictions on travel remain in place in a majority of global destinations, and tourism remains one of the worst affected of all sectors.

Against this backdrop, UNWTO has reiterated its call for governments and international organizations to support tourism, a lifeline for many millions and a backbone of economies.

Restarting tourism in a responsible way a priority

The gradual lifting of restrictions in some countries, together with the creation of travel corridors, the resumption of some international flights and enhanced safety and hygiene protocols, are among the measures being introduced by governments as they look to restart tourism.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The sudden and massive fall in tourist numbers threatens jobs and economies. It is vital, therefore, that the restart of tourism is made a priority and managed responsibly, protecting the most vulnerable and with health and safety as a the sector’s number one concern. Until tourism’s restart is underway everywhere, UNWTO again calls for strong support for the sector in order to protect jobs and businesses. We therefore welcome the steps undertaken by both the European Union and individual countries including France and Spain to support tourism economically and build the foundations for recovery.”

While April was expected to be one of the busiest times of the year due to the Easter holidays, the near-universal introduction of travel restrictions led to a fall of 97% in international tourist arrivals. This follows a 55% decline in March. Between January and April 2020, international tourist arrivals declined by 44%, translating into a loss of about US$195 billion in international tourism receipts.

Asia and the Pacific hit hardest

At the regional level, Asia and the Pacific was the first to be hit by the pandemic and the worst hit between January and April, with arrivals down 51% in that period. Europe recorded the second-largest fall, with a 44% drop for the same period, followed by the Middle East (-40%), the Americas (-36%) and Africa (-35%).

In early May, UNWTO set out three possible scenarios for the tourism sector in 2020. These point to potential declines in overall international tourist numbers of 58% to 78%, depending on when travel restrictions are lifted. Since mid-May, UNWTO has identified an increase in the number of destinations announcing measures to restart tourism. These include the introduction of enhanced safety and hygiene measures and policies designed to promote domestic tourism.

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Global Tourism Crisis Committee Meets Again: Coordination, Vital Ingredient for Recovery

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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.

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UNWTO and Expedia Group to Share Data and Insights to Guide Tourism Recovery

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image: UNWTO

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.

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UNWTO to Harness the Power of A.I to Link Tourism Workers with Jobs

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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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