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Vaccine Only Part of the Cure for Resumption of Pacific Travel: World Bank Report

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With COVID-19 vaccine distribution now in its early stages, early steps toward the resumption of labour migration in the Pacific region underway, and hopes for an international travel ‘bubble’ between Australia and New Zealand, questions are now arising as to what additional measures will be needed before international tourism returns to the Pacific region. In this context, World Bank analysis, How Could the Pacific Restore International Travel?, has recommended that Pacific Island countries and Papua New Guinea (PNG) take a phased approach to resuming international travel to the region in order to safeguard against COVID-19 outbreaks and ensure a steady economic recovery.

Pacific countries have, so far, managed to largely protect citizens from COVID-19 through international border closures. Yet, the economic impacts of the pandemic in the region have been significant. Recent economic modeling by the World Bank shows that all Pacific economies are estimated to have contracted in 2020– particularly those reliant on tourism. Fiji, for example, is estimated to have seen a reduction in GDP of close to 20% in 2020. While a modest recovery is expected in 2021, output levels are not expected to reach pre-COVID19 levels until 2022 or later.

“We want to assist policy makers in the Pacific and PNG to make informed decisions about the risks, and benefits, of when and how they choose to re-open to international travel,” explained Michel Kerf, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands of the motivation behind producing the report.

“Due to weak health systems, any large COVID-19 outbreaks could have devastating consequences for the region. Recent World Bank surveys show that the pandemic’s economic impacts and closed borders are forcing families to make tough choices, like going without food or withdrawing children from schooling, and these can have harmful consequences for years to come.”

The report proposes that re-opening travel to the Pacific should be done in phases, but it cautions that relaxing strict border policies alone will not immediately deliver economic benefits. The three phases are:

  • Phase 1 beginning between January and July 2021: Pre-approved travel for specific groups (more temporary workers, students etc.) Strong testing and quarantine measures would be the foundation for any travel bubble.
  • Phase 2 beginning between June 2021 and May 2022: A ‘travel bubble’ with commercial flights for business and tourism. This would require sustained COVID-19 containment, improved testing and tracing, and initial roll-out of vaccinations.
  • Phase 3 beginning between October 2021 and October 2022: A ‘new normal’. Longer term general international travel requiring wide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and treatment with vastly improved testing and tracing.

“The ‘triple win’ of labor mobility – for the individual worker, for Australian and New Zealand businesses, and for PNG and Pacific economies – means we highly recommend it be prioritized in phase 1,” said Andrew Blackman, author of the report.

“Tourism is also central to several Pacific economies, with many flow-on effects for domestic supply chains and benefits for both genders. Not many other industries deliver the same economic and social benefits but opening up to tourists represents a big health risk and so must be planned carefully. The World Bank is committed to supporting our partner countries across the region as they determine the best course of action,” continued Mr. Blackman.

The report warns that Pacific governments and their partners will have to invest significantly in testing and tracing capabilities at every phase of re-opening, and each country will have to weigh this financial burden with the potential benefits of resuming international travel. Assuming that wide distribution of the current COVID-19 vaccines will take months, any ‘new-normal’ travel arrangements are unlikely to be in place before late 2021.

Based on this proposed timeline, economic activity across the Pacific could remain depressed for another 9-18 months. To help address this, the World Bank’s second phase of COVID-19 support to the region will focus on helping countries address the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, support businesses, safeguard jobs, and advance the reforms needed to speed recovery towards broad-based and sustainable growth.

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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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Tourism

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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