In a policy brief and video message broadcast on Tuesday, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the role tourism plays in providing a livelihood to millions of people and called for the recovery of tourism from COVID-19 in a sustainable way.
“It is imperative that we rebuild the tourism sector. But it must be in a way that is safe, equitable and climate friendly,” Guterres said.
Tourism is “the third largest export category (after fuels and chemicals) and in 2019 it accounted for 7 percent of global trade,” Guterres said. It is also the “third largest export sector of the global economy.”
However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, “export revenues from tourism could fall by 910 billion U.S. dollars to 1.2 trillion U.S. dollars in 2020,” he argued. “This will have a wider impact and could reduce global GDP (gross domestic product) by 1.5 percent to 2.8 percent.”
Calling for a roadmap to transform tourism, Guterres identified five priority areas — mitigating the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19; boosting competitiveness and building resilience across the entire tourism value chain; maximizing the use of technology and advancing the digital transformation of the tourism sector; promoting sustainability and green growth; and fostering partnerships to enable tourism to further support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Guterres further recalled that tourism employs one in every 10 people on Earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more, boosts economies and enables countries to thrive, allows people to experience some of the world’s cultural and natural riches, and brings people closer to each other.
That is why it has been so painful to see how tourism has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
In the first five months of this year, international tourist arrivals decreased by more than half and some 320 billion U.S. dollars worth of exports from tourism were lost.
As many as 100 million direct tourism jobs are at risk, in addition to sectors associated with tourism such as labor-intensive accommodation and food services industries that provide employment for 144 million workers worldwide. Small businesses, which shoulder 80 percent of global tourism, are particularly vulnerable, Guterres said.
Women, who make up 54 percent of the tourism workforce, youth and workers in the informal economy are among the most at-risk categories.
The crisis is a major shock for the developed economies. But for the developing countries it is an emergency, particularly for many small island states and African countries, he said.
Tourism is also a key pillar for the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, the UN chief said.
“Ninety percent of countries have closed World Heritage Sites, with immense socio-economic consequences for communities reliant on tourism. Ninety percent of museums closed and 13 percent may never reopen,” he said.
Guterres concluded by calling for the restoration of tourism’s position as a provider of decent jobs and stable incomes and for the protection of our cultural and natural heritage.