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Tourism after Covid: How to build better forward for a more resilient and inclusive tourism sector, leveraging on renewed interest in sustainability

Tourism is among the industries that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis. Over a year since the onset of the pandemic, the numbers are staggering: Tourism destinations recorded one billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than in 2019. A deep decline in international travel led to a loss of about USD 1.3 trillion in export revenues, more than 11 times the loss during the last economic crisis in 2009.  100 to 120 million tourism jobs were put at risk, a large portion in small and medium-sized enterprises.  

This is a grave concern for developing economies as they chart a course towards recovery. Driven by both public and private sectors, not only is tourism a vital source of foreign currency, it has the potential to serve as a development ‘tool’ to strengthen supply chains, improve local firm productivity, create one out of ten jobs and provide income for women and young people.

Experts globally continue to forge and predict possible steps that will fuel recovery and these are; 

  • Improve traveler confidence
  • Understand and track new market trends and the drivers of demand
  • Commit to building more resilient and inclusive tourism sectors, leveraging renewed interest in sustainability – an important takeaway in the long term.

Governments globally are working on diversifying conservation revenue. We are all noticing important progress being made in public private partnerships in conservation, and engaging in wildlife bonds, to ensure their natural heritage is protected during tourism crises. Resilience comes through focusing on the environment, people and technology to prepare for climate change and crises. Mainstreaming risk management and investing all along the tourism value chain 

Digital technology is another area that deserves attention. We all agree on the important role of technologies such as virtual reality in holding tourist interest during the lockdown, and as a source for data to inform planning and decision making. Technology will continue to play a growing role in long-stay tourism as more workers seek remote and telecommuting options. 

The COVID-19 crisis has increased the number of digital nomads seeking opportunity to work from tourism destinations.  As vaccines are rolled out and offices reopen, destinations will need to keep a close eye on the durability of this market.  

The road to recovery for tourism and travel will require innovation and collaboration. Although the pandemic is far from over, we must also plan to build forward better  – engaging across government, private sector, civil society, and other partners – and prepare for changing business models and governance structures to meet new and different demands. Clearly communicating actions to rebuild investor and consumer confidence will be important in the short term. In the long term, strengthening sustainability and resilience, and sharing benefits more equitably will also be critical. 

Together these approaches can revitalize the global tourism sector, harnessing its market-creating power to support economies, create jobs, and drive development outcomes that put people and their communities first.

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