Two hikers on a mountain
Local people need to be engaged in mountain tourism and empowered to conserve the resources upon which it depends. UNWTO foresees that domestic tourism will return before international tourism. Managed well, this could benefit rural communities.
Photo:Galen Crout/Unplash.

Rebuilding tourism in a safe, equitable, climate-friendly way

Tourism has been among the hardest hit of all sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic. No country has been unaffected. Restrictions on travel and a sudden drop in consumer demand have led to an unprecedented fall in international tourism numbers, which in turn have led to economic loss and the loss of jobs.

Women, youth, and workers in the informal economy are the most at risk from tourism sector job losses and business closures due to the pandemic. At the same time, the destinations most reliant on tourism for jobs and economic growth are likely to be the hardest hit.

The tourism crisis is also a threat to wildlife conservation initiatives and to the protection of the world's cultural heritage. The sudden fall in tourism revenues has cut off funding for biodiversity conservation. With livelihoods at risk in and around protected areas, cases of poaching and looting are expected to rise. With 90% of World Heritages Sites closed as a result of the pandemic, humanity's cultural heritage is at risk in all parts of the world.

On this World Tourism Day, the COVID-19 pandemic represents an opportunity to rethink the future of the tourism sector, including how it contributes to the sustainable development goals, through its social, cultural, political, and economic value. Tourism can eventually help us move beyond the pandemic, by bringing people together and promoting  solidarity and trust – crucial ingredients in advancing the global cooperation so urgently needed at this time.

Photo camera, notebook and a face mask over a suitcase

The impact of COVID-19 on tourism

Data from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows that 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs are at risk. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) forecasts a loss of 1.5 to 2.8 per cent of global GDP. Check the last Secretary General's policy brief about the impact of the pandemic on tourism and the roadmap towards a more sustainable and inclusive tourism sector.

Global community unites to celebrate “tourism and rural development”

The 2020 edition of World Tourism Day, with the theme of “Tourism and Rural Development”, will celebrate the unique role that tourism plays in providing opportunities outside of big cities and preserving cultural and natural heritage all around the world.

This year’s international day of observation comes at a critical moment, as countries around the world look to tourism to drive recovery, including in rural communities where the sector is a leading employer and economic pillar providing jobs and opportunity, most notably for women and youth.

Development through tourism can also keep rural communities alive. It is estimated that by 2050, 68% of the world population will live in urban areas, while 80% of those currently living in ‘extreme poverty’ live outside of towns and cities.

The situation is particularly hard for youth: young people in rural communities are three times more likely to be unemployed than older adults. Tourism is a lifeline, offering young people a chance to earn a living without having to migrate either within their home countries or abroad.

World Tourism Day 2020 will once again be celebrated by UNWTO’s Member States in all global regions as well as by cities and other destinations and by private sector organizations and individual tourists. It comes as communities in rural areas also struggle with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These communities are usually much less-prepared to deal with the short and longer-term impacts of the crisis. This is due to a number of factors, including their aging populations, lower income levels and the continuing ‘digital divide’. Tourism offers a solution to all of these challenges.  

For the first time in the 40-year history of World Tourism Day, the official celebration will not be hosted by a single Member State of the United Nations specialized agency. Instead, nations from the Mercosur bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with Chile joining with observer status) will serve as joint hosts. This co-hosting agreement exemplifies the spirit of international solidarity that runs through tourism and which UNWTO has recognized as essential for recovery.

Did you know?

  • Tourism employs one in every ten people on Earth. Because of the pandemic, 100-120 million direct tourism jobs are at risk.
  • UNWTO foresees that domestic tourism will return before international tourism. Managed well, this could benefit rural communities.
  • Young people in rural communities are three times more likely to be unemployed. Tourism is a lifeline, offering young people a chance to earn a living without having to migrate.
A couple enjoying the view of Horseshoe Bend

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is a leading UN international agency in the field of tourism. Its mission is to promote tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide. Discover how they are working to cope with this pandemic along with the tourism sector and other UN agencies. 

Tourists feeding a turtle

Tourism creates jobs, promotes local culture and products, works in the sustainable use and management of the environment, like marine resources, and improves measures to make tourism an inclusive experience for all. That is the spirit of our Sustainable Development Goals, a global call to action to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Discover more about how tourism is helping us to achieve these goals by 2030. 

 

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.