UNWTO releases global guidelines for tourism restart

Portrait of a young woman in a car looking at a map for directions.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released a set of global tourism guidelines to support governments and the private sector to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new guidelines are focused on seven priorities for the recovery of the global tourism industry based on the pillars of mitigating the economic impact of the coronavirus, developing safety protocols and coordinated responses, and fostering innovation.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said the guidelines would build on the knowledge and input of the public and private sectors, and from several United Nations agencies as part of the UN’s wider response to tourism’s recovery.

“These guidelines provide both governments and businesses with a comprehensive set of measures designed to help them open tourism up again in a safe, seamless and responsible manner,” Pololikashvili said.

“They are the product of the enhanced cooperation that has characterised tourism’s response to this shared challenge.”

It comes as the UN specialised agency warned in May that international tourist arrivals could fall by between 60 per cent and 80 per cent – putting 100 to 120 million livelihoods at risk – and possibly lead to US$910 billion to US$1.2 trillion lost in exports.

A highlight of the new UNWTO guidelines is the emphasis on fostering the digital transformation of destinations, companies and employees with free online training and the use of apps like the ‘Hi Card’, as well as the use of tech to promote social distancing in hotels and tourist destinations.

Furthermore, the UN agency has strengthened its partnership with Google to promote digital learning and online skills training to provide new opportunities across the global tourism sector.

The guidelines also include recommendations for the recovery of meetings and events, with hygiene and operations, and product and marketing advice covered.

Credit: iStock/guenterguni

It comes after the World Tourism Organization released a set of 23 recommendations to help the industry recover and “grow back better”, including a review of taxes and charges, and a forward focus on sustainable development.

However, the recommendations came under fire for neglecting to mention wildlife tourism.

In a joint open letter from World Animal Protection (WAP), more than 230 organisations – including Airbnb, Intrepid Travel, SATSA, Humane Society International, Born Free and the Animal Welfare Institute – backed calls on the UNWTO to ensure the travel industry takes a lead role in stopping the commercial exploitation of wild animals.

WAP said COVID-19 is a wake-up call for the world to reset its relationship with wild animals.

“As one of the industries that has been worst hit by the current crisis, and most vulnerable to future ones, the tourism industry must take a lead role in stopping the exploitation of wild animals,” it said in a statement.

“Up to 550,000 wild animals are estimated to be living in tourist entertainment venues across the world.

“The sector must stop profiting from activities such as elephant rides and bathing, selfies with wild animals, petting big cats and swimming with captive dolphins.

“Instead, it needs to only sell and promote wildlife-friendly tourism, including genuine wildlife sanctuaries and well-managed observation of wild animals in their natural habitat.”

Featured image: iStock/swissmediavision

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