The United Nations has released a thematic brief on the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on tourism, stressing the most vulnerable are at greatest risk.
The ‘COVID-19 and Transforming Tourism’ policy brief from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres makes clear the impact that the pandemic has had on global tourism and its effect on livelihoods, economies, wildlife conservation and the protection of cultural heritage.
Among its key findings, the brief warns that the impacts of the pandemic on tourism – which Guterres describes as one of the “wonders of the world” – 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.
The impact on biodiversity and ecosystems will be particularly critical in small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDS).
Furthermore, with 90 per cent of World Heritage Sites having closed as a result of the pandemic, both tangible and intangible heritage is at risk in all parts of the world.
This comes on top of the already substantial economic impacts of a lack of tourism, which the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) noted could reduce global GDP by as much as 2.8 per cent.
The brief warns that as many as 100 million direct tourism jobs are at risk, with women, youth and workers in the informal economy most at risk of job losses and business closures across the tourism sector.
In addition to calling for strong support for the sector in mitigating these massive impacts, the brief stresses that this crisis represents an opportunity to rethink tourism, including how it contributes to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, at the same time, the tourism sector has a high climate and environmental footprint, requiring heavy energy and fuel consumption, placing stress on land systems, the report shows.
“The growth of tourism over recent years has put achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement at risk,” it says.
“Transport-related greenhouse gas emissions from tourism have been estimated at five per cent of all human originated emissions and could rebound sharply if the recovery of the sector is not aligned with climate goals,”
The policy brief provides five priorities for the restart of tourism, all aimed at ensuring a more resilient, inclusive and carbon neutral sector, including:
- Mitigate socio-economic impacts on livelihoods, particularly women’s employment and economic security
- Boost competitiveness and build resilience, including through economic diversification and encouragement of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)
- Advance innovation and digital transformation of tourism
- Foster sustainability and green growth
- Enhanced focus on coordination, and responsible leadership.
The release of the United Nations policy brief comes as, locally, Tourism Research Australia shared its report on the role domestic tourism will play in the recovery of our industry.
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