UN meets to help reverse ‘steep decline’ in tourism

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The COVID-19 pandemic brought the entire tourism industry to a standstill and dealt a “devastating blow to the global economy,” he told the first-ever high-level thematic debate on sustainable tourism.

“In 2019, before the pandemic, tourism contributed $3.5 trillion to global GDP. The precipitous decline during the pandemic is estimated to have cost up to 120 million jobs.”

common role

While it is easy to summarize the devastation in numbers, it is much more difficult to measure the total toll on people, communities and services, especially for many small island states and least developed countries, which continue to rely heavily on tourism to support government spending on to awaken.

Looking beyond the numbers, tourism plays a deeply human role: “Travel and tourism connect and unite us…build bridges and facilitate intercultural exchanges…[and] promotes peace and solidarity across continents and borders,” said Mr. shahid.

Creative tourism

From ‘travel bubbles’ to digital tours, vaccine passports and ‘resilient corridors’, imaginative efforts have been made to help tourism weather the two-year COVID virus.

“As the pandemic eases, the tourism industry is recovering,” he said, speaking of “the human need to connect, explore and experience”.

“However, as it bounces back, it’s important that we think about its future direction.”

Challenges to come

While recognizing the economic importance of tourism, the Assembly Speaker warned that we also need to deal with the damage it does to the planet, such as carbon emissions; oceans full of plastic; and the human toll on ecosystems and wildlife.

“We know that many of the communities and historic sites around the world that are loved by tourists are climate and disaster sensitive and need support to build resilience,” he added.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme’s Green Economy Report, a business-as-usual scenario predicts that by 2050, tourism will generate a 154 percent increase in energy consumption, for the industry, 131 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, 152 percent in water consumption and 251 percent in solid waste disposal.

“We cannot allow this to continue. We must not restart global tourism in a business-as-usual way, we must be more ambitious than that, more responsible than thatunderlined Mr Shahid.

‘Time for bold action’

During the discussions, the UN official encouraged participants to deliver on their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the inclusion and empowerment of women, youth, indigenous and other marginalized communities to improve

“Today I call on all stakeholders to seize every opportunity to transform the tourism industry and pursue a more sustainable, inclusive and responsible approach,” he said.

“Now is the time for bold action and all ideas are welcome.”

UN News/Elizabeth Scaffidi

Via rickshaw, tourists explore the historic Chandni Chowk market in Delhi, India.

Invest in tourism

World Tourism Organization (WTO) chief Zurab Pololikashvili noted that the current energy crisis contributes to the fragility of the tourism sector, but argues that investment in tourism is also investment in peace.

He said tourism was especially important for the livelihoods of women, youth and rural communities, and advocated the need for a new, sustainable balance between the short-term needs of tourists and the long-term needs of communities

The WTO official stressed that tourism can bring about positive change and praised the various sectors that participated in the ‘landmark’ talk on sustainability.

Industry support

World Bank Director of Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice, Sameh Wahba, spoke about inclusive, resilient sustainable cities and communities.

He said that since tourism employs 10 percent of the global workforce, it offers significant opportunities for women, rural communities and small businesses.

Mr Wahba advocated support for nations to promoting sustainable tourism for the benefit of poor communities and preserving culture, heritage and the environmentt.

Assisting with the SDGs

UN Deputy Chief Amina Mohammed noted that “tourism is in turmoil” largely due to the COVID pandemic, but also conflict situations, including Ukraine.

She insisted that sustainability remain at the heart of tourism and advocated turning the sector into a positive force in implementing the SDGs.

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