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5 Oct, 2009

UNWTO Survey Shows Tourism Prominent In Economic Stimulus Packages

Astana, Kazakhstan — More than 70 countries included travel & tourism in the economic stimulus packages they enacted to mitigate the impact of the global economic crisis, according to a report to be presented to the UN World Tourism Organisation General Assembly here this week.

Entitled “Roadmap to Recovery,” the report is a survey of all UNWTO Member States and was conducted by the UNWTO Secretariat between March-August 2009, as well as through online research. It is to be the centrepiece of discussions when the world’s tourism ministers meet here from 5-8 October for the 18th UNWTO General Assembly.

The report is designed to help the ministers swap experiences as they seek to chart a recovery from the unprecedented economic, climate, social and health challenges that are expected to impact on the future of global travel & tourism well into the next decade.

It shows that most countries implemented travel & tourism stimulus measures in the areas of marketing, mainly aimed at the domestic market, and in enhancing public/private partnerships. These are the areas where national tourism administrations/organizations have a direct and immediate mandate and can act more rapidly.

A significant number of countries also enacted fiscal and/or monetary measures in order to ensure that tourism businesses continue to get access to credit and increase their liquidity, maintain their operations and retain jobs.

Finally, the report says, travel facilitation measures such as applying visa on arrival, decreasing the cost of visas or, in some cases even, exempting visa requirements for a certain number of source markets are major steps towards the resilience of the sector, and the economic recovery at large.

The report says that since the last UNWTO General Assembly convened in Colombia in November 2007, travel and tourism “has had to endure the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, accelerating trends of climate change and the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic.

It says international tourism is forecast to decrease by between -6% and -4% this year – which would be “the worst result in decades.” Growth is projected to be negative in all regions, except in Africa. Domestic markets, highly stimulated by many governments during the crisis, are expected to do slightly better.

Tourism earnings also are expected to suffer more than arrivals as consumers tend to trade down, stay closer to home and for shorter periods of time. Worldwide, companies, particularly small and medium enterprises, which make up the bulk of the tourism sector, face increasing difficulties as demand declines and access to credit became harder, the report says.

This year’s UNWTO General Assembly will seek ways to steer tourism on the path to recovery. Indeed, the Roadmap report calls on world leaders to continue to place tourism and travel at the core of stimulus packages and the Green New Deal.

It says that travel & tourism can play an essential role in the post-crisis recovery by providing jobs, infrastructure, stimulating trade and aiding development and should thus be a key consideration at future global economic summits.

“History shows that the biggest challenges provide the biggest opportunities,” the report says. “Today world leaders are working together in ways that would have been unimaginable at any time in the past, to coordinate and collaborate on their economies, their climate response and their development agenda.”

It says that the current crisis offers opportunities for the tourism sector to step up investment in human resources, in better market knowledge and in technology and innovation, as well to rethink the existing growth models and embrace the principles of sustainable development.

The report calls on UNWTO member states to “objectively scrutinise barriers to travel such as visa processes,” even more so in times of economic downturn. A declaration on the facilitation of tourist travel will be presented urging governments to consider measures such as simplifying visa applications and re-evaluating travel advisories.

The General Assembly also will call for responsible travel in the course of the swine flu pandemic, urging governments not to take unilateral measures that may unnecessarily disrupt global travel.

UNWTO has held two review and preparation exercises on ‘Travel and Tourism in Pandemic Conditions’ which will form part of a briefing on the status of the virus and its impact on the tourism sector. This is of particular importance given that October is the beginning of the winter flu season in the Northern Hemisphere.

This year, for the first time, UNWTO is preparing a special communications campaign and all Assembly proceedings will be made publicly available.

The General Assembly will also be called upon to ratify the appointment of Dr Taleb Rifai as the Secretary-General, as recommended by the UNWTO Executive Council. If approved, Mr. Rifai will begin his 4 year mandate in January 2010 when he plans to implement his agenda structured around membership, partnerships and governance.

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