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World Tourism Day a reminder for governments to double down on Covid recovery

27 Sep 2021
Image credit. Heather M Edwards

The Covid-19 pandemic has destroyed almost 20 percent of travel and tourism jobs worldwide, a sobering reminder on World Tourism Day this year, and a stark reminder for governments to double down their efforts for a swift recovery from the crisis.

For an industry that is responsible for about one in four new jobs worldwide, this is a distressing number. This is particularly the case for women, who make up 54 percent of the tourism sector and are disproportionately employed in the hardest hit sectors of the industry. Without a swift, coordinated response this crisis will only get worse.

The pandemic wiped out nearly 50 percent of the industry’s contribution to global GDP in 2020. Prior to the crisis, the industry generated about 10 percent of global GDP and over 300 million jobs worldwide. Over 60 million of these jobs were wiped out in 2020, and millions more are at risk as governments start to wind down income and job support schemes.

The recovery of the world’s tourism industry will rely on global leaders delivering a rapid response, including an aggressive global vaccine rollout, harmonised travel protocols and rigorous health and safety safeguards.

A global suppression of the virus will be key to the recovery of tourism. The IMF warns that the emergence of new major variants could wipe USD 4.5 trillion from global GDP by 2025. Further economic crisis, triggered by an inadequate response to the pandemic, will wreak more havoc on this already devastated industry.

"The impact of this pandemic is not only devastating for the workers in the industry but for the development of entire economies across the world,” said David Massiah, ITF Tourism section chair.

There is an urgent need for governments to work together to navigate a way out of this pandemic. The mechanisms for this already exist, the WHO, ILO and ICAO have all laid out the recovery roadmaps, governments now need to come together and actually implement them,” said Massiah.

Rebuilding confidence in travel will be key to the recovery of the industry in a post- pandemic world. This will depend massively on how tourism workers are equipped to facilitate the new realities of travel and tourism. Ensuring tourism workers have access to vaccines, robust health and safety standards and reskilling opportunities to navigate the digital transformation occurring across the industry, will be key to ensuring passengers are greeted by a confident and safe workforce, and industry.

“Too many people and too many economies rely on the tourism industry for us to turn our backs on it. Governments must work with each other to ensure people can start travelling again. And they must work with employers and trade unions to ensure that the tourism industry post- pandemic can confidently facilitate travel and tourism once more,” said Massiah.