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Tourism sector must be rebuilt in a safe, equitable and climate friendly way

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Launching his latest policy brief, on tourism, Secretary-General António Guterres, pointed out that the industry “employs one-in-every-ten people on Earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more”.

Strong data from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows that 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs are at risk. And the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) forecasts a loss of 1.5 to 2.8 per cent of global GDP.

Describing tourism as an opportunity to experience the world’s cultural and natural riches, bringing people closer to each other and highlighting our common humanity, Mr. Guterres said: “One might say that tourism is itself one of the wonders of the world”.

A sobering glimpse

Among other things, the brief finds that, due to the unprecedented shutdown of global travel and trade, tourism may be the sector worst affected by the coronavirus
“It has been so painful to see how tourism has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic”, the UN chief reflected.

Moreover, there are secondary impacts, such as increase in poaching, as people search for other sources of income.
In the first five months of this year, international tourist arrivals have fallen by more than half and around $320 billion in tourism exports were lost, according to the top UN official. 

“Many are in the informal economy or in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which employ a high proportion of women and young people”, Mr. Guterres continued.

As for women, rural communities, indigenous peoples and many other historically marginalized populations, “tourism has been a vehicle for integration, empowerment and generating income”, he added.

Conservation pillar

Tourism is also a key pillar for the conservation of natural and cultural heritage. 

“The fall in revenues has led to increased poaching and habitat destruction in and around protected areas, and the closure of many World Heritage Sites has deprived communities of vital livelihoods”, informed the UN chief.

Rebuilding

The Secretary-General underscored the importance of rebuilding the tourism sector in a way that is “safe, equitable and climate friendly”.

Noting that transport-related greenhouse gas emissions could “rebound sharply if recovery is not aligned with climate goals”, he stressed that sustainable and responsible travel is imperative to support the millions that depend on tourism for their livelihoods.

Key areas

Mr. Guterres outlined five priority areas to aid recovery and re-establish an industry that is safe for host communities, workers and travellers.

His first task is to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the crisis – particularly women’s employment and economic security.
Secondly, he suggests building resilience across the entire tourism sector.

Maximizing technology throughout the industry, including by promoting innovation and investing in digital skills, is his third priority.
His fourth point is to promote sustainability and green growth in managing the shift towards a resilient, carbon-neutral tourism sector.
And finally, he flags that partnerships must be fostered to responsibly ease and lift travel restrictions in a coordinated manner to restart and transform tourism towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Let us ensure tourism regains its position as a provider of decent jobs, stable incomes and the protection of our cultural and natural heritage”, concluded the Secretary-General.

Stronger together

In addition to these priorities, UNWTO underscored that continued coordination and cooperation at every level is critical. 
Emphasizing the guiding principle of “stronger together”, UNWTO’s leadership has warned against the short and long-term consequences of Governments taking unilateral decisions. 

“The situation is changing every day”, said UNWTO chief Zurab Pololikashvili. “It is impossible today to make a forecast for the next year”.

Nuts and bolts

While UNWTO too the lead in drafting the brief, 13 other UN agencies, funds or programmes have contributed, including the International Labour Organization (ILO), UN Women and the UNCTAD. 

Among other things, it found that, due to the unprecedented shutdown of global travel and trade, tourism may be the sector worst affected by COVID-19. 

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Tourism

Promoting ‘Brand Africa’ to Realize the Continent’s Tourism Potential

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UNWTO’s African Member States will work together to establish a new narrative for tourism across the continent. To better realize tourism’s potential to drive recovery, UNWTO and its Members will also work with the African Union and the private sector to promote the continent to new global audiences through positive, people-centred storytelling and effective branding.

With tourism recognized as an essential pillar of sustainable and inclusive development for the continent, UNWTO welcomed high-level delegates to the first Regional Conference on Strengthening Brand Africa. The conference featured the participation of the political leadership of host country Namibia, alongside public and private sector leaders from across the continent.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili welcomed the common determination to rethink as well as restart tourism. “African destinations must take the lead in celebrating and promoting the continent’s vibrant culture, youthful energy and entrepreneur spirit, and its rich gastronomy”, he said.  

Windhoek Pledge puts people first

On the back of a series of workshops and a Ministerial Think Tank, UNWTO’s African Member States unanimously endorsed the Windhoek Pledge on Advocating Brand Africa. Under the terms of the Windhoek Pledge, Members will engage both public and private sector stakeholders as well as local communities to build a new, inspiring narrative for tourism across the continent. They will identify positive, human-centred stories, and through strengthened partnerships with the media, showcase them to the world, reaching new and diverse tourism source markets.

Over the coming weeks, UNWTO will work with all signatories to create a common roadmap towards establishing Brand Africa. This will include establishing common values and goals and identifying funding needs and opportunities as well as providing branding toolkits for destinations, including guidelines and recommendations and training and capacity building in market intelligence, digital marketing and data management.

Bilateral meetings show support for tourism

Alongside the conference, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, held high-level talks on the restart of tourism with President of Namibia Hage Geingob, as well as with the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and with the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga

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New report on single-use plastic products aims to advance sustainability in travel and tourism

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The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), launch a major new report today, addressing the complex issue of single-use plastic products within Travel & Tourism.

‘Rethinking Single-Use Plastic Products in Travel & Tourism’ launches as countries around the world begin to reopen, and the Travel & Tourism sector starts to show signs of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic which has been devastating.

The report is a first step to mapping single-use plastic products across the Travel & Tourism value chain, identifying hotspots for environmental leakages, and providing practical and strategic recommendations for businesses and policymakers.

It is intended to help stakeholders take collective steps towards coordinated actions and policies that drive a shift towards reduce and reuse models, in line with circularity principles, as well as current and future waste infrastructures.

The report’s recommendations include redefining unnecessary single-use plastic products in the context of one’s own business; giving contractual preference to suppliers of reusable products; proactively planning procedures that avoid a return to single-use plastic products in the event of disease outbreaks; supporting research and innovation in product design and service models that decrease the use of plastic items, and revising policies and quality standards with waste reduction, and circularity in mind.

Virginia Messina, Senior Vice President and Acting CEO, WTTC said: “WTTC is proud to release this important high-level report for the sector, focusing on sustainability and reducing waste from single-use plastic products in Travel & Tourism.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the sustainability agenda with businesses and policymakers now putting an even stronger focus on it. As a growing priority, businesses are expected to continue to reduce single-use plastic products waste for the future and drive circularity to protect not only our people, but importantly, our planet.

“It is also becoming clear that consumers are making more conscious choices, and increasingly supporting businesses with sustainability front of mind.”

Single-use plastic products can be a threat to the environment and human health and without deliberate effort across the sector, Travel & Tourism can and will contribute significantly to the issue.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had both negative and positive impacts on single-use plastics pollution.

The demand for single-use plastics items has increased with safety being a high concern among tourists and take-away services being on the rise. According to the Thailand Environment Institute, plastic waste has increased from 1,500 tons to a staggering 6,300 tons per day, owing to soaring home deliveries of food.

However, the pandemic has also catalysed consumer demand for green tourism experiences around the world, with a 2019 global study finding 82% of respondents are aware of plastic waste and are already taking practical actions to tackle pollution.

The report recognises that global solutions are required to address corporate concerns about the use of single-use plastic products. It aims to support informed decision making based on the potential impacts of trade-offs and of unintended burden shifting when considering the transition to sustainable alternatives.

Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director of the Economy Division, UNEP said:

“Travel & Tourism has a key role to play in addressing the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, as well as making circularity in the use of plastics a reality.

The advent of COVID-19 and consequent proliferation of single-use plastic products has added urgency to the crises. With this report, we hope to encourage stakeholders in this industry to come together to address this multifaceted challenge. Only by doing so, can we ensure meaningful and durable change.”

With around 90 percent of ocean plastic derived from land-based sources and the annual damage of plastics to marine ecosystems amounting to US$13 billion per year, proactively addressing the challenge of plastics within the Travel & Tourism sector is key.

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UNWTO and Greece to Collaborate on Maritime Tourism Research Centre

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UNWTO is to collaborate with the Greek Ministry of Tourism in establishing a first research station dedicated to measuring the sustainable development of coastal and maritime tourism across the Mediterranean.

The new monitoring centre will be based at the University of the Aegean in Greece. From here, experts will capture and collate measurement data and analysis relating to the environmental, economic, and social impact of tourism.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Coastal and Maritime tourism is one of the most important economic drivers within the Mediterranean basin. This new research centre can provide key data to guide the restart and future development of the sector, ensuring it fulfils its potential to provide opportunity for coastal communities and to protect and celebrate natural and cultural heritage.”

The United Nations specialized agency and the Ministry of Tourism confirmed their collaboration on the initiative during the UNWTO High-Level Conference on Coastal and Maritime Tourism, held in Athens and co-hosted by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and Celebrity Cruises.

The Tourism Minister of Greece Harry Theoharis said: “I express my immense gratitude for UNWTO’s support in this endeavour. The Research Center will soon become a reference point for the study and protection of our coasts and seas.”

Pierfrancesco Vago, Global Chairman of CLIA and Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises added: “CLIA is pleased to support the UNWTO research and monitoring centre on sustainability and coastal maritime tourism in the Mediterranean. As part of the cruise industry’s commitment to responsible travel, we are pursuing carbon neutral cruising in Europe by 2050, and we work closely with cruise destinations and coastal communities to support economic growth in a sustainable manner.

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