We should rebuild tourism in a safe,equitable and climate-friendly way

26Sep 2020
Editor
The Guardian
We should rebuild tourism in a safe,equitable and climate-friendly way

​​​​​​​Tourism has been among the hardest hit of all sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic. No country has been unaffected. Restrictions on travel and a sudden drop in consumer demand have led to an unprecedented fall in international tourism numbers, which in turn have led to economic loss-

-and the loss of jobs. Women, youth, and workers in the informal economy are the most at risk from tourism sector job losses and business closures due to the pandemic. At the same time, the destinations most reliant on tourism for jobs and economic growth are likely to be the hardest hit.

The tourism crisis is also a threat to wildlife conservation initiatives and to the protection of the world's cultural heritage. The sudden fall in tourism revenues has cut off funding for biodiversity conservation. With livelihoods at risk in and around protected areas, cases of poaching and looting are expected to rise. With 90  per cent of World Heritages Sites closed as a result of the pandemic, humanity's cultural heritage is at risk in all parts of the world.

On this World Tourism Day, the COVID-19 pandemic represents an opportunity to rethink the future of the tourism sector, including how it contributes to the sustainable development goals, through its social, cultural, political, and economic value. Tourism can eventually help us move beyond the pandemic, by bringing people together and promoting solidarity and trust – crucial ingredients in advancing the global cooperation so urgently needed at this time.

Data from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) shows that 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs are at risk. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) forecasts a loss of 1.5 to 2.8 per cent of global GDP.  The 2020 edition of World Tourism Day, with the theme of “Tourism and Rural Development”, will celebrate the unique role that tourism plays in providing opportunities outside of big cities and preserving cultural and natural heritage all around the world.

This year’s international day of observation comes at a critical moment, as countries around the world look to tourism to drive recovery, including in rural communities where the sector is a leading employer and economic pillar providing jobs and opportunity, most notably for women and youth. Development through tourism can also keep rural communities alive. It is estimated that by 2050, 68 per cent of the world population will live in urban areas, while 80 per cent  of those currently living in ‘extreme poverty’ live outside of towns and cities.

The situation is particularly hard for youth: young people in rural communities are three times more likely to be unemployed than older adults. Tourism is a lifeline, offering young people a chance to earn a living without having to migrate either within their home countries or abroad. World Tourism Day 2020 will once again be celebrated by UNWTO’s member states in all global regions as well as by cities and other destinations and by private sector organizations and individual tourists.     

Since 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation has celebrated World Tourism Day as international observances on September 27. This date was chosen as on that day in 1970, the Statutes of the UNWTO were adopted. The adoption of these Statutes is considered a milestone in global tourism. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness on the role of tourism within the international community and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide. The theme of the day was "sustainable tourism", in 2017. In 2018 the theme was "Tourism and the Digital Transformation" and in 2019 the theme is "Tourism and Jobs: a better future for all".

The late Ignatius Amaduwa Atigbi, a Nigerian national, was the one who proposed the idea of marking September 27 of every year as World Tourism Day. He was finally recognised for his contribution in 2009. The colour of World Tourism Day is Blue.

Top Stories