Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 September 2020

UN chief says 120 million tourism jobs at risk due to Covid-19

Antonio Guterres calls for sustainable rebuilding of an industry that lost an estimated $320bn in exports in the first five months of 2020

 Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations  REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
 Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations  REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

The global tourism sector has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, with $320 billion (Dh1.1 trillion) lost in exports in the first five months of the year and more than 120 million jobs at risk, according to UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres.

“The crisis is a major shock for developed economies, but for developing countries it is an emergency — particularly for many small island developing states and African countries,” Antonio Guterres said in New York on Tuesday evening. “For women, rural communities, indigenous peoples and many other historically marginalised populations, tourism has been a vehicle for integration, empowerment and generating income."

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the global travel and tourism industry to a halt and tipped the global economy into a recession, expected to be the deepest since the Great Depression, according to the International Monetary Fund. In June, the multilateral lender forecast global gross domestic product would shrink by 4.9 per cent this year.

The World Travel and Tourism Council is also predicting huge job losses if movement restrictions to contain the spread of the pandemic continue. More than 197 million jobs could be lost within the travel and tourism sector due to the current crisis, it said in June.

The tourism sector employs one in ten people globally and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more, Mr Guterres said.

“It boosts economies and enables countries to thrive. It allows people to experience some of the world’s cultural and natural riches and brings people closer to each other, highlighting our common humanity.”

Countries should focus on “five priority areas” to help the tourism industry recover from the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

“First, mitigate the socioeconomic impacts of the crisis. Second, build resilience across the entire tourism value chain. Third, maximise the use of technology in the tourism sector.”

Promoting sustainability and green growth as well as fostering partnerships should also be a top priority, he added.

“It is imperative that we rebuild the tourism sector," Mr Guterres said. "But it must be in a way that is safe, equitable and climate-friendly. Transport-related greenhouse gas emissions could rebound sharply if recovery is not aligned with climate goals.”

Though countries are reopening borders to tourists and for trade purposes, the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise. As of Wednesday, there were more than 24 million global coronavirus cases, with about 16.6 million recoveries, and the death toll stood at more than 823,000, according to Worldometer.

"Let us ensure tourism regains its position as a provider of decent jobs, stable incomes and the protection of our cultural and natural heritage," Mr Guterres said.

Updated: August 26, 2020 12:39 PM

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