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By Atlanta Mahanta

The Global rebalance of Tourism is led by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), where 140 participants from 30 countries attended the meeting, including 24 tourist ministers. The members of the UNWTO Global Network have been joined by representatives from 10 foreign organizations. 

Priorities to open up the tourism potential of Africa: In addition to discussing COVID-19’s immediate challenge, discussions centred on the main UNWTO Africa agenda, a road map designed to lead the industry in sustainable growth through to 2030. These priorities include improving African tourism infrastructure, enhancing air connectivity, facilitating visas, ensuring tourist security, investing in developing human capital, and improving Africa’s reputation towards the rest of the world.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Africa’s tourism potential is undeniable, as is the potential of tourism to drive inclusive development across the continent. The steady easing of travel restrictions, first within nations and then across international borders, will allow the many social and economic benefits of tourism to return. If tourism’s restart is managed in a responsible and coordinated manner, harnessing the power of innovation and entrepreneurship, then it can transform millions of lives and help protect and preserve Africa’s rich cultural and natural heritage.”

The group’s current Chairman, Mr Pololikashvili, was present at the 63rd CAF meeting and was represented by Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, its Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, who served as the Minister of Tourism and Arts, Zambia, and the African Union. All participants welcomed recent initiatives designed to expose African gastronomy and use it as a new market for sustainable tourism and the job creation, announced by the Secretary-General, among which the Brand Africa marketing competition. Prior to the meeting, UNWTO Member States participated in a web-based survey inviting them to share their views on how to use the UNWTO Agenda for Africa to speed up regeneration from the COVID-19 pandemic and build future resilience. Participants strongly wished to prioritize the top five key areas of the Africa Agenda with a view to promoting a swift and sustainable recovery. The main priorities are: 

  • Growth through investment and efficient public-private partnerships; 
  • Promoting innovation and technology; 
  • Facilitating visas and improving connectivity; 
  • Promoting Brand Africa, and fostering more resilience, including by improving tourist safety.

Overall, the UNWTO Strategy aims to foster the digitalisation of tourism and create an Ecosystem of Enterprise and Innovation which maximizes the sector’s potential for economic growth, job creation and sustainable development. Six strategic projects by UNWTO, as follows:

1. UNWTO Innovation Network: As part of the Innovation, Digital Transformation and Investments Department´s mission of fostering synergies among key stakeholders and promoting the exchange of knowledge among actors and change-makers with the objective of contributing to the promotion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we aim to make innovation a key pillar of the sustainable development of tourism.

2. The UNWTO Innovation Hubs Network: will unify the leading innovation hubs worldwide into one Network dedicated to connecting and scaling up the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems of UNWTO Member States by bringing together the leading tourism stakeholders, including governments, academia, corporations, SMEs and start-ups, investors (business and super business angels, venture capital, etc.) and supporting business partners (accelerators, incubators, etc.) in order to boost innovation and entrepreneurship. This Network would facilitate collaboration, inspiration and capacity building on how to scale and go global. Member States will actively be involved by launching innovation challenges.

3. UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventures: the first innovation forum dedicated to tourism that brings together all the actors of the ecosystem to boost innovation, entrepreneurship and especially, investment in Tourism. The Tourism Tech Adventures will include activities such as startup boot camps, one-on-one networking sessions between startups, corporations and investors, hackathons and startup competitions. Furthermore, seminars on relevant topics will be provided for Tourism Ministers. These events can be adapted to global, regional, local and even vertical levels, like sports tourism.

4. Digital Network Platform: a digital platform of leading corporations, start-ups, investors and Academia.

5. Tourism Innovation Leaders Programme: a community of innovative, enterprising, socially-minded leaders working for the sustainable development of tourism. As world-class leaders, they will guide and inspire all the actors of the ecosystem by sharing knowledge and providing mentorship.

6. Innovation Trends and Guidelines: will help the UNWTO Member States to develop strategic and innovative tourism products by providing an understanding of current social trends and customer needs.

Inputs and data from unwto.org

Projects in Africa 2020

• Tourism Marketing and Promotion Strategy; 

• Crisis Communication Strategy;

• Tourism Policy and Master Plan;

• Tourism Value Chain Analysis;

• Human Resource Development Strategy;

• Economic Diversification:

• Development of Tourism Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account;

• New System of Tourism Hotel Classification;

• Capacity-building for local government; 

• Tourism Development, Wildlife Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods; 

• Tourism Law;

During 2020, technical missions are planned to be undertaken in the following countries: 

Algeria; Formulation of a Tourism Marketing and Promotion Strategy

Angola; Needs Assessment Mission regarding Tourism Policy and a Master Plan for Tourism Statistics, and Value Chain Analysis

Botswana; Formulation of National Tourism Strategy and Master Plan

Botswana; Formulation of a Sustainable Tourism Master Plan for Kasane/Kazungula

Côte d’Ivoire; Formulation of a Human Resource Development Strategy in the Tourism Sector 

Democratic Republic of Congo; Formulation of the National Tourism Policy for the Democratic Republic of Congo 

Lesotho; Economic Diversification Support Project

Malawi; Development of Tourism Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account

Inputs and data from unwto.org

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, available data from destinations show a 22% decline in arrivals in the first three months of the year. After the lockdown in several countries and the introduction of travel restrictions and the closure of national and airports limits, the number of arrivals decreased sharply in March by 57%. This means a loss of 67 million international incoming countries and approximately $80 billion in income (tourism exports). While in relative and absolute respects Asia and the Pacific (-33 million arrivals) have the highest impact, the impact in Europe is, though a lower percentage, rather large (-22 million).

The outbreak and the insecurity continue to dominate the future prospects have been decreased several times over the year. Current scenarios indicate that arrivals can decrease by 58% to 78% per year. The containment speed and duration of travel restrictions and border interruptions are important. Three possible dates of the gradual opening of international borders are used in the following scenarios for 2020.

  • Scenario 1 (-58%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early July
  • Scenario 2 (-70%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early September
  • Scenario 3 (-78%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions only in early December.

Under these scenarios, the impact of the loss of demand in international travel could translate into:

  • Loss of 850 million to 1.1 billion international tourists
  • Loss of US$910 billion to US$1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism
  • 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk

Inputs and data from unwto.org

Recovery in 2021

According to the UNWTO Panel of Experts study, domestic demand is expected to recover more quickly than international demand. By the end quarter of 2020, but mainly by 2021, the majority anticipate signs of recovery. Based on past crises, leisure travel is expected to recover faster than industry, particularly for family and friends. The estimates for international travel recovery in Africa and the Near East have become more positive, with most experts still planning to recover in 2020. Skilful and least likely, American experts believe in recovery by 2020, while Europe and Asia have a mixed view with half of the experts predicting a recovery in this year.

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