UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has released a thematic brief on the impact the pandemic has had on tourism as part of the wider UN response to COVID-19. Drawing on the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the lead author of the publication, it warns that as many as 100 million direct tourism jobs are at risk, and the massive drop in export revenues from tourism could reduce global GDP by as much as 2.8%.
The brief stresses that tourism is an essential pillar of the SDGs and the most vulnerable workers and nations are at greatest risk.
Tourism has been among the hardest hit of all sectors by COVID-19 and no country has been unaffected, with restrictions on travel and a sudden drop in consumer demand leading to an unprecedented fall in international tourist numbers.
The “COVID-19 and Transforming Tourism” Policy Brief from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, makes clear the impact that the pandemic has had on global tourism and how this affects everything from jobs and economies to wildlife conservation and the protection of cultural heritage.
Said Guterres: “It is imperative that we rebuild the tourism sector” in a “safe, equitable and climate friendly” manner and so “ensure tourism regains its position as a provider of decent jobs, stable incomes and the protection of our cultural and natural heritage.”
The UN Secretary-General further underscored that tourism is one of the world’s most important economic sectors, providing “livelihoods to hundreds of millions more”, while it “boosts economies and enables countries to thrive”, and at the same time allowing “people to experience some of the world’s cultural and natural riches and brings people closer to each other, highlighting our common humanity.”
And he made it clear that it is imperative that we rebuild the tourism sector ensure tourism regains its position as a provider of decent jobs, stable incomes and the protection of our cultural and natural heritage
The Brief warns that the impacts of the pandemic on tourism are already placing conservation efforts in jeopardy. Citing case studies from around the world, it warns that the sudden fall in tourism revenues has cut off funding for biodiversity conservation and, with livelihoods at risk in and around protected areas, cases of poaching and looting are expected to rise.
Again, the impact on biodiversity and ecosystems will be particularly critical in SIDS and LDCs. Furthermore, with 90% of World Heritages Sites having closed as a result of the pandemic, both tangible and intangible heritage is at risk in all parts of the world.