COVID-19: Global tourism body issues guidelines for reopening sector

The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has released a set of guidelines to aid the recovery of the global tourism sector from blows dealt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the pandemic sweeping through the corners of the world and hurting economies as well, travel agencies and hospitality companies have been badly hit, with many grounded.

Depending on when travel restrictions are lifted, the United Nations specialised agency has warned that international tourist arrivals could fall by between 60 and 80 per cent.

This puts an estimated 100-120 million jobs at risk and could lead to about $1.2 trillion loss in exports, experts say.

The UNWTO, on its website, said the guidelines aim to support governments and private sectors across the globe to recover from the unparalleled crisis.

According to the Secretary-General, UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, the guidelines were produced in consultation with the Global Tourism Crisis Committee and in partnership with Google.

They are to help governments and businesses restore confidence in the sector as the world embraces innovation and digital transformation of the sector.

“These guidelines provide both governments and businesses with a comprehensive set of measures designed to help them open tourism up again in a safe, seamless and responsible manner.

“They are the product of the enhanced cooperation that has characterised tourism’s response to this shared challenge, building on knowledge and inputs from across the public and private sectors and from several UN agencies as part of the UN’s wider response,” Mr Pololikashvili said.

Suggested protocols

The new guidelines focus on priority areas such as international border management, cross-cutting measures in the private sector, safe air travel, hospitality, tour operators and travel agencies, destination planning and management.

The guidelines highlight the importance of restoring the confidence of the travelers through safety and security protocols designed to reduce risks in each step of the tourism value chain.

The protocols include the implementation of check procedures where appropriate, including temperature scans, testing, physical distancing, enhanced frequency of cleaning and the provision of hygiene kits for safe air travel, hospitality services or safe events.

‘Innovation key’

The guidelines also highlight the opportunity to foster a digital transformation of destinations, companies and employees with new initiatives.

These include free online training with the UNWTO Online Academy and the implementation of apps such as the Hi Card to improve international interoperability at the airports and hotels.

Underscoring the role of technology in promoting social distancing in hotels and tourist destinations, Mr Pololikashvili said the UN agency will work with Google to promote digital learning and online skills training so as to provide new opportunities across the global tourism sector.

“We are thrilled to be working more closely with Google,” he added. “The past weeks have highlighted the enhanced role technology plays in our lives and furthering the digital transformation of tourism will make the sector more resilient and create opportunities for people all around the world.”