International tourism is showing strong signs of recovery, with tourist numbers rising to 57 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. On World Tourism Day, marked on Tuesday, the UN is calling for a major global rethink of the sector, to ensure that tourism is sustainable, and benefits local communities.
The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) released encouraging news on Monday, with its latest World Tourism Barometer, which shows that international tourism arrivals almost tripled in the first seven months of 2022 (compared to the same period in 2021).
The agency’s Panel of Tourism Experts expressed cautious confidence for the rest of year, and into 2023, despite the uncertain economic environment: increasing interest rates, rising energy and food prices, and the growing prospects of a global recession, continue to pose major threats to the sector.
In a message released to mark the Day, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, hailed tourism’s ability to drive sustainable development, and called for more investment in clean and sustainable tourism, the creation of decent jobs, and for measures to ensure that profits benefit host countries and local communities.
Go green to survive
“Governments, businesses and consumers must align their tourism practices with the Sustainable Development Goals and a 1.5 degree future”, said Mr. Guterres, referring to international agreements aimed at keeping global warming in check. “The very survival of this industry, and many tourist destinations, such as Small Island Developing States, depends on it.”
“The restart of tourism everywhere brings hope,” declared Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General, in his address at the opening of the official celebrations organized for the Day, in the Indonesian resort city of Bali.
Mr. Pololikashvili described tourism, which employs around 10 per cent of the global workforce, as the “ultimate cross-cutting and people-to-people sector, which touches on almost everything we do.”
To mark the day, UNWTO launched its first World Tourism Day Report, the first in an annual series of updates and analysis of the Organization’s work guiding the sector forward.
The report contains updates on the agency’s activities in key areas including gender equality, sustainability and climate action, tourism governance and investments and innovation.
Representatives of the G20 group of the world’s leading economies, including tourism ministers, will meet in Bali in November. Ahead of the event, UNWTO has produced a set of guidelines for ministers, to enable them to support resilient and sustainable tourist businesses, which take into account human capital, innovation, youth and women empowerment, and climate action.
Ensure zero-tolerance for sexual exploitation: UN rights expert
An independent UN rights expert released a statement ahead of the Day, to call for Governments to ensure that the tourism industry is free from child forced labour, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.
Mama Fatima Singhateh, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, warned that the COVID-19pandemic, climate change and socioeconomic setbacks have caused enormous strains on child protection systems.
This, she said, has made children more vulnerable to sale, trafficking and sexual exploitation in the context of travel and tourism, especially in countries that have traditionally relied on the income generated from travel and tourism.
Tourism and the climate crisis
- In response to concerns surrounding the impact of the tourism sector on the climate crisis, UNWTO launched the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism at the 2021 UN Climate Conference (COP26), which was held in the Scottish City.
- Signatories commit to supporting global commitments to halve harmful emissions by 2030, and reach Net Zero as soon as possible before 2050, implement climate action plans, and report on their progress on an annual basis.
- To date more than 530 organizations have signed the Declaration, including major international companies, and tourism boards from a wide variety of countries.
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First Person: Surviving Bali’s COVID tourism crash
Dekha Dewandana ran a thriving ‘homestay’ tourism property in Bali, and received UN-supported training which has helped him to maintain a high standard of hospitality. When COVID-19 hit Indonesia, his business was pushed to the verge of collapse and, after a bruising two-year period, it’s now slowly recovering.
“When my parents passed away, I followed their wish for me to take care of our family home in Sudaji Village.
At that time, the village was already known as a tourism destination thanks to its cultural traditions and scenery and, in 2014 I started to realise my dream to develop homestays, where tourists stay with local families, in my village.
I was fully confident that I could succeed, based on my tourism and hotel background. I observed the operations of homestays and learnt how to transform my house into one.
It was a success; my homestay, Esa di Kubu, was chosen by the Bali Tourism Office to represent Sudaju Village in a national tourism award, and was awarded second prize.
Afterwards, the Bali Tourism Office recommended that I take part in the International Labour Organisation’s Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE) hospitality coaching programme.
The programme helped us to ensure that our facilities and equipment reached accepted ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) regional standards. We learnt about professional bedding, toiletries, food presentation, guest services and so forth. Every month, the trainer would coach us, and evaluate our progress.
The training also taught us the importance of digitalization and digital marketing, and I began promoting my homestay online. As a result, sales and visitor numbers increased, and I received high ratings on online tourism platforms.
‘We were all panicked and worried’
Then, at the end of 2019, COVID-19 hit. From January 2020, foreign guests began cancelling, and by March, when the Indonesian government declared a pandemic in the country, we had only five guests left, all of whom had found themselves trapped in Bali.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we received health protocol training from the ILO: we were taught how to protect ourselves by observing measures such as maintaining physical distance, using masks, and washing our hands. We maintained the protocols with the trapped guests, who continued to stay while finding ways to be repatriated.
Due to the global and national lockdown and mobility restrictions we had no guests and no income. We were all panicked and worried. I used my savings to buy daily needs, particularly food: I bought as much rice and instant noodles as possible, because the stores and markets were closed down.
I was contacted by my former overseas guests, asking about my condition and offering some help, which I felt grateful for. Their support helped my family to survive until the end of the 2020.
The first seven months of 2021 were the most difficult. We were planting vegetables to survive, but my fellow villagers and I barely ate during that period, and I began to lose hope.
‘My homestay has become alive again’
Eventually, conditions improved, restrictions were lifted, and we received assistance from the government. I never forgot about my homestay dream during this period, during which I repainted and fixed up the house.
Foreign visitors began to return, and in January 2022 I received a group of tourists from Denmark and Switzerland.
I’m glad that my homestay has become alive again.
As well as running my business, I am one of the founders of Sudaji Homestay, a group for homestay owners who have completed the ILO hospitality coaching programme.
Not all the homestay owners can speak English or have an understanding about marketing and digital marketing, and the group is there to share knowledge, and help members to maintain standards for their homestays.
I share my skills and knowledge so that we can continue to maintain our reputation as one of Indonesia’s leading tourism village, so that my fellow villagers do not have to find jobs elsewhere.”
Supporting the tourism industry at the ILO
- Dekha Dewandana is a beneficiary of ILO’s SCORE HoCo Programme, a programme sponsored by the Swiss Government. It is an ILO global programme that improves productivity and working conditions in small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
- The tourism sector is a major driver of economic growth, enterprise development and job creation, particularly for women, youth, migrant workers and local communities.
- Tourism was one of the industries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its impact on enterprises, especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), is unprecedented.