Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of UN, called on Tuesday for a sustainable recovery of tourism from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A sharp rebound of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions was likely if recovery is not in alignment with climate goals Guterres highlighted.

During the video message to mark the launch of his policy brief on COVID-19 and tourism, Guterres said, "It is imperative that we rebuild the tourism sector. But it must be in a way that is safe, equitable and climate-friendly."

Identifying Priority Areas

Supporting the millions of livelihoods that depend on tourism means building a sustainable and responsible travel experience that is safe for host communities, workers and travelers, he said, according to Xinhua news agency.

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres Wikimedia Commons

He identified five priority areas: mitigating the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19; building resilience across the entire tourism value chain; maximizing the use of technology in the tourism sector; promoting sustainability and green growth; and fostering partnerships to enable tourism to further support the Sustainable Development Goals.

Referring to tourism as one of the world's most important economic sectors, Guterres said the industry employs one in every 10 people on earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more, boosts economies and enables countries to thrive, allows people to experience some of the world's cultural and natural riches, and brings people closer to each other.

That is why it has been so painful to see how tourism has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. In the first five months of this year, international tourist arrivals decreased by more than half and some $320 billion worth of exports from tourism were lost.

Disasterous Outcomes of Falling Revenues

Overall, some 120 million direct jobs in tourism are at risk, he noted. The crisis is a major shock for developed economies, but for developing countries, it is an emergency, particularly for many small islands developing states and African countries.

For women, rural communities, indigenous peoples and many other historically marginalized populations, tourism has been a vehicle for integration, empowerment and generating income. Tourism is also a key pillar for the conservation of natural and cultural heritage.

The fall in revenues has led to increased poaching and habitat destruction in and around protected areas, and the closure of many World Heritage Sites has deprived communities of vital livelihoods, he said. Guterres concluded his message by calling for the restoration of tourism's position as "a provider of decent jobs, stable incomes and the protection of our cultural and natural heritage".

(With inputs from agencies)