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Latin America’s Tourism Industry Must Address Long-Standing Shortfalls to Bounce Back after COVID-19

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New analysis from the World Economic Forum shows that some of Latin America’s and the Caribbean’s tourism strengths are less important than before to a competitive tourism economy during COVID-19. The onset and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the factors that make a country’s travel and tourism sector competitive. Certain factors, such as healthcare capacity and digital travel offerings, are increasing in importance during the pandemic. Other factors, like international openness – a primary strength of Latin America – are now less important.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the Latin America and Caribbean region was improving in terms of travel and tourism competitiveness, but most of its economies still performed below the global average.Tourism slowdowns give policy-makers and business leaders in the region a chance to reassess their tourism practice and policies, especially in infrastructure and unsustainable tourism development, which are particular risks to the region’s long-term tourism resilience.

“COVID-19 has had a severe impact on the travel and tourism sector, with some parts of the sector effectively shut down completely,” said Christoph Wolff, Head of Mobility at the World Economic Forum. “Considering that tourism accounts for nearly 10% of the world’s jobs, it’s important that countries take serious measures to ensure their tourism is competitive and ready to bounce back as COVID-19 measures are rolled back and countries begin to reopen.”

In Latin America, these changes in travel competitiveness are particularly troublesome. Europe and other countries with more ample health resources have a better chance of containing and managing COVID-19 cases than other countries with less-developed health resources, potentially speeding up a safe reopening of their travel sector. For example, Latin America’s and the Caribbean’s healthcare capacity constraints are exemplified by the particularly low levels of hospital beds there, with 42% fewer beds per 10,000 people than the global mean.

Similarly, higher ICT readiness will allow tourism companies and their supply-chain partners to provide more services digitally – a growing advantage when person-to-person interactions are constrained. Competitiveness components such as a favourable business environment and labour markets can also act as supply-side stimuli, generating relief and accelerating the recovery.

The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that the travel and tourism industry accounts for 10.2% of GDP in the Latin America and Caribbean region. In some countries, such as Jamaica, tourism accounts for a much higher percentage of GDP. The current downturn is having a major effect on economies heavily dependent on tourism.

Despite the downturn, the region’s long-term prospects for remain encouraging, as travel and tourism growth has continually outpaced global GDP growth for the past decade. While the region benefits from rich natural resources and improving international openness, numerous obstacles remain. These include unfavourable business, safety and security conditions, gaps in health and hygiene, underdeveloped infrastructure and environmental issues.

Latin America and Caribbean countries can use this time to re-evaluate their tourism development projects and build for a better sector in the future. For example, opportunities exist within their infrastructure gap. Good air transport is critical to Latin America’s travel competitiveness, especially considering the region’s hard-to-traverse terrain. Pandemic shutdowns have further slowed infrastructure projects but also offer an opportunity for countries in the region to reassess their ongoing projects and direct attention to the most critical areas. Building infrastructure for a better balance between tourism and local demand will be particularly important.

Improving travel and tourism competitiveness requires collaboration between the public and private sectors. Moreover, stakeholders must recognize the need to consider environmental and socio-economic sustainability in their decision-making. Approaches that focus only on driving short-term tourism demand have the potential to weaken the long-term resilience of the travel and tourism industry.

By improving their travel and tourism competitiveness, countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region can help the travel and tourism industry survive, recover and “build back stronger” from the impact of COVID-19.

The Latin America and Caribbean Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Landscape Report uses competitiveness rankings and data from the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Ranking (TTCR), and puts them in the context of COVID-19 and the changes the pandemic has brought to the travel and tourism economies in the Latin America and Caribbean region. The TTCR is a biennial report that ranks countries on the competitiveness of their travel and tourism sectors; the most recent edition was released in September 2019.

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Tourism

New Report Shows Value of IP to the Tourism Sector

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A new report published jointly by WIPO and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on the value of intellectual property in boosting tourism shows how the IP system creates a favorable ecosystem for innovation, entrepreneurship and investment in the sector.

The publication, entitled “Boosting Tourism Development through Intellectual Property,” highlights good practices, features case studies and recommendations for policymakers and other tourism stakeholders on how to ensure that creativity, innovation, traditions and cultural heritage in tourism are properly protected and commercialized and that the benefits are shared by all.

In a joint Foreword, WIPO Director General Daren Tang and UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili, predict that while the tourism sector has taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, it will recover and “contribute to reigniting hard-hit economies and societies thanks to its capacity to adapt to changes and offer innovative solutions to new challenges.”

“In this context, IP rights are powerful tools that can be used to boost tourism development and competitiveness. The IP system is designed to promote creativity and innovation and support efforts by individuals, businesses and other actors to differentiate themselves and their products and services in the marketplace, whether through trademarks, geographical indications, copyrights or patents,” they added.

The publication provides practical guidance for non-IP specialists on how to include IP in tourism product development – from destination branding to tourism policies. It shows how different IP rights can be leveraged to raise funds. And it showcases successful experiences and demonstrates how stakeholders around the globe are using IP rights to add value to tourism services and products, as well as to protect and promote local knowledge, traditions and cultural heritage.

Through examples of producing cheese, tea, pepper, wine or other products, the publication shows how geographical indications and appellations of origin can be used to support the growth of rural tourism and provide benefits to local communities.

To leverage the full potential of the IP system, the report recommends inclusion of IP strategies in national tourism plans and tourism policy strategy for regional and local destinations. Not only does good IP knowledge and management help to make use of the protected intangibles, but it also attracts investments and leverages fundraising opportunities.

Finally, tourism authorities are encouraged to raise awareness among tourism and destinations stakeholders on the importance of appropriate IP knowledge and management to foster the sector’s growth  in these challenging times.

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UNWTO and IATA Collaborate on Destination Tracker to Restore Confidence in Travel

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announce a Destination Tracker in preparation for the restart of international travel. It is the result of both organizations joining efforts to boost confidence and accelerate recovery of the tourism sector when borders reopen. The UNWTO-IATA Destination Tracker is a new free online tool for governments to provide information on COVID-19 requirements for travel and the measures in place at the destination.

The tool is available through the websites of both organizations and will provide information on: 

  • COVID-19 Indicators including infection rates, positivity rates, and vaccination roll out by destination/country.
  • Air Travel Regulations, including test and quarantine requirements, provided by IATA’s Timatic solution.
  • Destination Measures, including general health and safety requirements such as use of masks, transit through a country, curfew, or regulations related to restaurants and attractions, provided by national tourism organizations.  

The Destination Tracker will fulfil a key need by providing clarity on COVID-19 measures affecting tourism. The situation for travelers is complex with UNWTO data showing that one in three destinations remains closed to tourists. Moreover, restrictions and in-country measures are continuously being revised. 

Governments can use the Destination Tracker to post COVID-19 travel information so that potential travelers will know what to expect at their destination. When fully populated with updated destination information, travel stakeholders including Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) and travel agencies, will be able to obtain the latest destination information, enabling travelers to make informed decisions when borders reopen and travel resumes. The development of the Tracker framework is now complete. Up-to-date information on COVID-19 indicators and air travel regulations is available and systematically updated. Destination information is being progressively uploaded, expanded and updated with official sources as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili says: “UNWTO is pleased to reinforce its partnership with IATA, a UNWTO Affiliate Member, to provide this important tool. Travelers and companies will be able to check requirements in place for air travel, as well as what measures will be in place at the visited destination. We trust this tool is also critical for governments to track existing travel restrictions and support the safe restart of our sector.”

“It has been more than a year since the freedom to travel was lost as COVID-19 measures saw borders close. When governments have the confidence to re-open borders people will be eager to travel. And they will need accurate information to guide them. With the support of national tourism organizations, the UNWTO-IATA Destination Tracker will help travelers and travel companies obtain the latest information for travel planning,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director-General.

The UNWTO-IATA Destination Tracker builds on the existing partnership between the two parties. In October 2020, UNWTO and IATA signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to restore confidence in international air travel. The agreement will also see the two agencies partner to foster innovation to drive the restart of tourism, promote greater public-private collaboration in the field of aviation and the tourism sector in general, and advance progress already made towards achieving greater sustainability and resilience.

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UNWTO and Facebook: Leverage Digital Marketing to Restart Tourism

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Facebook have partnered to help global destinations make use of the power of digital marketing as they look to welcome tourists back safely.

Over the past year, the United Nations specialized agency for tourism has been supporting its Member States on a series of initiatives relating to market intelligence and marketing. Now, as tourism begins to restart in some parts of the world, a series of special sessions were held jointly with Facebook to deliver a range of key insights into how the effective use of digital marketing can help destinations gain a competitive advantage in the challenging months ahead.

Three sessions, one each in English, Spanish and French, welcomed participants from 30 countries. The sessions focused on Facebook and Instagram Communication Insights and Best Practices, with participants also given an overview of digital tools and tips for communicating with their target audiences, including through Messenger and WhatsApp. Alongside this, the sessions highlighted the importance of metrics and other key tools in measuring the success of digital marketing campaigns, and role of advertising and creativity in reaching new audiences.

Sandra Carvao, UNWTO Chief, Market Intelligence and Competitiveness, says: “We are very happy to have Facebook on board with us to bring the fundamentals and best cases of digital marketing to our Members. Our partnership will help destinations be better prepared for a new market framework and allow them to use data and digital marketing to reach new audiences and restart their tourism sectors.  

Nicolai Gerard, Facebook EMEA Government Politics & NonProfit Marketing Solution Director says: “We are very pleased to work with UNWTO to help global destinations take advantage of all the benefits that digital solutions and tools can offered. In the times we are living, it is key for the travel industry to implement digital marketing strategies to accelerate the road to recovery.  With this partnership, we believe that travel destinations will gain the necessary tools and skills that will allow them to use all the services available through our family of apps”.

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