By Justina Okpanku
The Secretary-General, the United Nations World Tourism Orgaisations (UNWTO) Zurab Pololikashvili has asked countries to do more for the tourism industry saying that the cost of the restrictions on travel introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is there for all to see.
Between January and May, the sudden and rapid fall in tourist arrivals cost an estimated $320 billion. That’s three times greater than the impact of the Great Recession of 2007-2009 on our sector – and this is just for the first five months of the year.
The re-opening of borders to tourism is a welcome relief to millions who depend on our sector. But this alone is not enough, especially in view of recent announcements and measures which seem further and further away from the international coordination that UNWTO has been calling for since the pandemic erupted.
For the inter-governmental organisation, in these uncertain times, people around the world need strong, clear and consistent messages. What they don’t need are policy moves which ignore the fact that only together are we stronger and able to overcome the challenges we face.
“Those in positions of leadership and influence have recognized the importance of tourism for jobs, economies and rebuilding trust. This is only the first step. Now, they must do everything they can to get people travelling again, following and implementing all the protocols which are part of the new reality.
As UNWTO has said from the start of this crisis, governments have a duty to put the health of their citizens first. However, they also have a responsibility to protect businesses and livelihoods. For too long, and in too many places, the emphasis has overly focused on the former. And we are now paying the price. It doesn’t have to be this way. As a sector, tourism has a long history of adapting and responding to challenges head-on.
By Justina Okpanku