Interview: Time to rethink tourism, an economic lifeline for millions of people |
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is one of the 15 specialized agencies of the United Nations, which aims to promote tourism in the world, and to make it the engine of economic growth and sustainable development.
Speaking to UN News’ Bessie Du at the end of 2021, shortly after the agency’s general meeting, Ms Urosevic began by describing the devastating impact the COVID-19 epidemic continues to have. on tourism and the prospects for recovery.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Zoritsa Urosevic: Tourism has been the sector hardest hit by the crisis, along with all the people and the livelihoods that depend on it. Basically, it was two very hard years, but we can see that in the future, we will have to completely rethink the sector, and this may be an opportunity.
Developed countries were much better prepared to support the blow, mainly with financial packages to support industry and small businesses, and to try to save people’s jobs. Developing countries have really struggled to do this.
We created the tourism stimulus package, a tool to quickly assess what to do in a particular country, and we created the very first code for the protection of tourists, because self-confidence is really a very important element. for people who decide to travel.
We are fully aligned with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the importance of committing to safer travel protocols rather than stopping travel altogether, because we know how many livelihoods depend on tourism. , not only directly, but also those who work in industries that depend on the sector, such as food production, services and manufacturing.
At a time when populations are moving more and more to urban areas, rural development through tourism will certainly be one of the major trends in the sector. We have launched an initiative called Best Tourism Villages, and we are going to have a global center for rural tourism development.
UN News / Jing Zhang
UN News: Would you say the blow to tourism is unprecedented?
Zoritsa Urosevic: It is certainly the biggest crisis in the history of the industry. Basically it’s like we’re 30 years back in 2020. Over the past three decades tourism has been steadily growing by around four percent every year, so now we have a situation where we have a lot. supply, lots of businesses, and no tourists.
Countries of the size and purchasing power, like China, may have shifted to domestic tourism, but for small developing countries like Fiji, which have been hit hardest by the crisis, and where the tourism represents between 40 and 70 percent of the GDP, it is not possible.
We are calling for the harmonization of travel protocols, which have been very volatile because, even if countries come to an agreement, a change in the pandemic situation means it cannot be implemented.
The best performing countries were those that were able to communicate very clearly and articulate the protocols. Greece is a good example: they opened in July 2020, but communicated well in advance, and many tourists who had planned to go elsewhere went to Greece instead, because they were well informed.
IMF Photo / Cyril Marcilhacy
UN News: How to inform ordinary tourists of the progress made in the international coordination of travel protocols?
Zoritsa Urosevic: We have really stepped up our social media presence and have a hundred times more followers than before. We do our best, but it is never enough, so we are very open to new ideas and new opportunities.
UN News: What do you say to people whose livelihoods depend on tourism?
Zoritsa Urosevic: First of all, I would say this industry is very resilient: we all dream ， and we all want to travel. For now, we need to improve education and training, but I think the future is bright. The tourists will come back, and they will be more respectful than before: there will be a new way for happiness in tourism and cultural exchanges.