UN chief António Guterres has everyone to promote sustainability and green growth in managing the shift towards a resilient, carbon-neutral tourism sector calling it “one of the world’s most important economic sectors”.
He said the sector must be rebuilt in a safe, equitable and climate friendly way during Covid-19 pandemic.
Launching his latest policy brief on tourism, Guterres on Tuesday pointed out that the industry “employs one-in-every-ten people on Earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more”, reports UN News.
Strong data from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows that 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs are at risk. And the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) forecasts a loss of 1.5 to 2.8 percent of global GDP.
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.”
A sobering glimpse
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 coronavirus.
“It has been so painful to see how tourism has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic”, the UN chief reflected.
Moreover, there are secondary impacts, such as increase in poaching, as people search for other sources of income.
In the first five months of this year, international tourist arrivals have fallen by more than half and around $320 billion in tourism exports were lost, according to the top UN official.
“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 marginalised populations, “tourism has been a vehicle for integration, empowerment and generating income”, he added.
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.
He outlined five priority areas to aid recovery and re-establish an industry that is safe for host communities, workers and travellers.
His first task 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”, concluded the Secretary-General.