Tourism bodies are pushing to get the global tourism industry restarted, as soon as possible.
And leading the charge is the UNWTO, which is working on a range of fronts to advance tourism more sustainably, and more globally, as the world recovers from the shock of covid-19.
The organisation has launched a comprehensive tourism recovery tracker, aiming to share best practice and live data. The free to access dashboard draws together a range of information across regions, tracking tourism arrivals, air seat availability, hotel rates, occupancy levels and demand for short term rentals.
The organisation is also looking to level the playing field, off the back of the pandemic, with initiatives to help strengthen business in younger markets, and make the most of smart technologies. A recent Acceleration Programme, held with Google, targeted support to South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. “UNWTO is committed to helping Africa grow back stronger,” said Natalia Bayona, the organisation’s director of innovation, digital transformation and investments. “With the right policies, training and management in place, innovation and technology have the potential to foster new and better jobs and business opportunities for tourism in Africa while improving the overall wellbeing and prosperity of the region”.
The organisation is also looking to double down on supporting rural communities, in the wake of covid-19, to exploit tourism as a way to improve their economies. An event hosted by the Mercosur nations focused on the potential for sustainable tourism to help improve economic recovery and development across South America.
The World Travel & Tourism Council, meanwhile, has launched a campaign to remind consumers of the social benefits of travel and tourism. Headed by a promotional video shared across global social media platforms, the campaign aims to remind travellers that their trips have a broader social and economic benefit.
“The social impact of travel and tourism can transform lives of all of those who depend on this sector, alleviate poverty, reduce inequality, protect wildlife and preserve cultures and communities around the globe,” said WTTC president and CEO Gloria Guevara. “It plays a vital part in achieving wider developmental goals. We want to increase the awareness amongst travellers of the incredible extra benefits of travel, so they are more conscious that their actions and spending go further than they think, as well as how positive an impact every trip can have.”
WTTC also recently launched a report based on research it commissioned, calling for a globally coordinated approach to recovery. It says an improvement of seamless travel, and greater integration of technology should work alongside improved health and wellness protocols, to improve traveller confidence and get the world moving once more. To Travel and Beyond also calls on public and private bodies to work together to build the sector’s resilience.
The report identifies four key trends that will shape the recovery of travel: demand evolution, health & hygiene, innovation & digitisation, and sustainability.
Matthieu De Clercq, partner at Oliver Wyman, who undertook the research for WTTC, said: “It is imperative to move beyond the crisis and continue to support systemic change in the industry to enhance its resilience to future shocks and improve its positive socio-economic positive impact. Creating inclusive opportunities for women, youth and minorities alike does not only make sense economically, but is also what tourists of the future want, especially post-COVID.”
With consumers now more ready to embrace digital transformation than ever, the report suggests changes including even a move to digital passports, as a way to ease the transition of travellers between countries. And it suggests that both domestic, and later international incentives to encourage tourism should be used, to build back international travel.
HA Perspective [by Andrew Sangster]: Building back better is a favoured three-word slogan right now. It is in the same school of thought as not letting a good crisis go to waste.
The industry is absolutely right to point out the massive economic benefits travel and tourism brings. And it is a chance to help find solutions where the industry has proved a problem, such as Venice, Amsterdam and Barcelona.
What is key is getting governments and other non-governmental actors to recognise the importance of our industry as a driver of economic growth. Historically, sectors like agriculture and manufacturing have garnered a far greater share of attention. This is despite agriculture being ex-growth and manufacturing offering little chance of significant employment growth in developed nations.
With millions of unemployed, governments are going to need to address what sort of economic policies are needed to get people back into jobs. And the answer here ought to be policies that support and promote hospitality.
In the UK, for example, hospitality creates more than 40 jobs per GBP1m of output (according to Resolution Foundation and ONS data). The next closest sector – admin and support activities – creates less than 30 jobs per GBP1m of output. Manufacturing is barely 10 jobs for each GBP1m of output. Scaling up hospitality is a jobs creator
The latest numbers on youth unemployment, according to Eurostat, are terrifying. Youth (under 25) unemployment stands at more than 30% in the EU. In Spain and Italy, youth unemployment is more than 50%; in France it is above the EU average.
The hospitality industry is going to be a, perhaps the, critical industry for getting young people back in jobs. This gives the industry meaningful leverage both in keeping the industry in some form of shape during our own spell of “long-Covid” and when we finally see a proper recovery.
On this latter point, it is worth reiterating that this is probably going to take longer than many are factoring in. Kate Bingham, the head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce has been telling anyone who will listen that there will be only a limited supply of vaccines until midway through next year.
In addition, once there is a vaccine, it is unlikely to have complete efficacy. For example, flu vaccines typically protect between 15% and 50% of recipients. Even with a vaccine, there is unlikely to be any immediate return to normality.