UNITED NATIONS, August 25 (APP): The global tourism industry has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, with $320 billion lost in exports in the first five months of the year and more than 120 million jobs at risk, the United Nations chief said on Tuesday.
Launching his latest policy brief on tourism, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said international tourist arrivals decreased by more than half because of the global health crisis, which has crippled the world’s economies.
Tourism is the third-largest export sector of the global economy, behind fuels and chemicals, and it employs one in every 10 people worldwide, Guterres said. In 2019, it accounted for 7 percent of global trade.
“That is why it has been so painful to see how tourism has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the UN chief said.
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, Guterres said: “One might say that tourism is itself one of the wonders of the world”.
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.
Moreover, there are secondary impacts, such as increase in poaching, as people search for other sources of income.
“Many are in the informal economy or in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which employ a high proportion of women and young people”, 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. 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. 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. 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, he said, 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”, the Secretary-General added. In addition to these priorities, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has 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”.
While UNWTO took 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.