UNGA meets to help reverse the collapse of the global tourism sector after the pandemic

Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), stressed the need to build a more sustainable, resilient and responsible global tourism sector as part of the “long journey” to recover from Covid -19.

At the first-ever high-level thematic debate on sustainable tourism held at the UN headquarters in New York, Shahid said the Covid-19 pandemic had brought the entire tourism industry to a halt, dealing a “devastating blow to the global economy”, reports Xinhua news agency

“In 2019, before the pandemic, tourism contributed $3.5 trillion to global GDP. It is estimated that the sudden drop in the pandemic cost up to 120 million jobs,” noted the president of the UNGA.

While it is easy to sum up the devastation in numbers, it is much more difficult to capture the overall toll of people, communities and services, especially for many small island states and least developed countries, which remain heavily dependent tourism to fuel government spending, he said.

Beyond the numbers, tourism plays a deeply human role, “travel and tourism connect and unite us… build bridges and facilitate cross-cultural exchange… (and) promote peace and solidarity through continents and borders,” Shahid added.

Inventive efforts have been made to help tourism through two years of Covid, including ‘travel bubbles’, ‘vaccination passports’ and ‘resilient corridors’.

“As the pandemic subsides, the tourism sector is bouncing back,” he said, speaking of the “human need to connect, to explore, to experience.”

“However, as he bounces back, it’s important that we think about his future direction.”

Shahid noted that tourism is economically important, but its effects on the planet, such as carbon emissions, oceans overflowing with plastic, and human impacts on ecosystems and wildlife, must also be considered.

According to the United Nations Environment Program’s Green Economy Report, a “business as usual” scenario predicts that by 2050, tourism will generate a 154% increase in the sector’s energy consumption, 131% in greenhouse gas emissions, 152% in water consumption and 251% in solid waste disposal.

Throughout the discussions, Shahid encouraged participants to meet their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, and to strengthen the inclusion and empowerment of women, youth , indigenous communities and other marginalized communities.

“Today, I call on all stakeholders to seize every opportunity to transform the tourism sector, and to target a more sustainable, inclusive and responsible approach,” he said.

Zurab Pololikashvili, head of the World Tourism Organization, said the current energy crisis contributes to the vulnerability of the tourism sector, while asserting that investments in tourism are also investments in peace.

Tourism is particularly important for the livelihoods of women, youth and rural communities, he said, calling for a sustainable balance between the short-term needs of tourists and the long-term needs of communities.

Sameh Wahba, Director of Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice at the World Bank, spoke about inclusive, resilient and sustainable cities.

According to him, tourism creates opportunities for rural communities, small businesses and women, since it employs 10% of the global workforce.

According to UN deputy chief Amina Mohammed, the global tourism industry is “boiling”, largely due to the pandemic, but also due to conflict situations, including Ukraine.

She highlighted the importance of sustainability for the tourism sector and urged it to become a force for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.


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(Only the title and image of this report may have been edited by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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