Tourism after the pandemic
As Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, I must visit our Member States and personally support them as they advance tourism development. This activity has always been present in the role.
But no head of UNWTO has ever faced the triple crisis of pandemic, climate change and war. I have seen firsthand the devastating impact of the pandemic on our sector: nearly empty airports, grounded planes, and skyrocketing travel insecurity, and I have seen what that has meant for those who rely on this sector for their livelihood.
And now we are watching the Russian-Ukrainian war cross the 100-day mark and impact economies around the world.
At the same time, however, tourism is once again showing its resilience, confirming its well-deserved place at the global recovery decision-making table. I recently noticed two years of pent-up demand catching up with supply, and planes, airports, and destinations filling up.
Travel regulations are becoming easier to administer and trust among tourists – the beating heart of our sector – is being restored.
Rethink and rebuild
However, while the tourism reset continues, we must not fall into the illusion of a return to pre-pandemic times. Instead, restart means rethinking and redesigning tourism to work for people, the planet, prosperity and peace.
These are big ambitions, but tourism has the opportunity to think bigger and better. UNWTO has identified several priority areas to set the sector on this path; our guidelines. The war in Ukraine could call into question our system of international governance. However, we stood our ground and our members suspended Russia’s UNWTO membership and instead focused on the task ahead.
We need to build better and more sustainable institutions. The pandemic has proven that unilateral decisions will not get you far. A sound and integrated policy framework, as well as effective, accountable and democratic governance systems underpin broad cooperation in tourism planning, development and management.
Communication between the public and private sectors must be further strengthened so that decisions made at the top can be translated into action on the ground.
People and processes matter
Second, we need to invest better in tourism’s main asset: people. Our sector is a leading provider of opportunities, especially for women, youth and those living in rural areas. We must provide them and many others with the skills that employers need. That is what the UNWTO Academy does; our regional office in the Middle East is to become a hub for tourism education and training.
Third, as tourism recovers, we need to ensure inclusive growth. But effective policy requires the right data. We must adequately measure and control the impact of tourism. And we should encourage investment in tourism so that they take a close look at the small…