As reported by UNWTO, approximately $320 billion cost has been reported due to the sudden fall in tourist arrivals to the countries between January and May due to COVID-19. It is three times greater than the impact of the Great Recession of 2007-2009 on the tourism sector, which is just for the first five months of the year.
The re-opening of borders to tourism brought hope and relief to millions dependent on the tourism sector. However, reopening the borders only is not enough, especially in the current situation, where we can see a big gap in international coordination. UNWTO has been calling the countries to coordinate and cooperate in this regard from the very beginning of the pandemic.
“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 traveling again, following and implementing all the protocols which are part of the new reality” – said Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General.
UNWTO has been warning from the start of this crisis that governments have an obligation to put the health of their citizens first. It was also mentioned by the organization that countries also have a responsibility to protect businesses and livelihoods. However, in the majority of places, the emphasis has overly focused on the former for a long time. So the world is 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” said Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General.
A vaccine could still be many months away from now and in recent weeks global tourism has led the way in finding and implementing solutions that would help to adapt to the new reality. Rapid but strict testing at ports and airports, tracing and tracking apps have the potential to help the safe restart of tourism. At the same time, individuals and societies carry a big part of responsibility in these uncertain and difficult past months, by their learning curve of behavior.
“These solutions need to be fully embraced, not just cautiously explored. To delay will be a catastrophe and risk undoing all the progress we have made to establish tourism as a true pillar of sustainable and inclusive development. Moreover, it will be the most vulnerable members of our societies who will be hit the hardest as those most shielded from the economic and social consequences of tourism’s standstill urge continued caution.
Short-sighted unilateral actions will have devastating consequences in the long run. By and large, people have learned how to behave in a responsible way. Businesses and services have put protocols in place and adapted their operations. Now it's time for those making the political decisions to close the gaps so that we all can advance together” - also quoted by Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General.