TORONTO — World Tourism Day, which took place on Sept. 27, held extra significance this year during a global pandemic.
For the past 40 years, the day of observance, backed and promoted by the United Nations, has highlighted the impact of tourism to healthy economies around the world, celebrated achievements in the field, as well as educated the travelling public about Travel & Tourism, a crucial sector that employs millions. But when placed through the lens of COVID-19 and all its challenges, this year’s World Tourism Day was an opportunity to highlight the devastating impact the pandemic has had on lives and livelihoods around the world.
According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, some 120 million jobs are at risk, which could lead to the loss of between 1.5% and 2.8% of the global GDP. This, he says, will particularly affect the most vulnerable countries, including Small Island Developing States, the Least Developed Countries and many African nations, where tourism can represent between 30%-80% of exports.
“The safe restart of tourism is essential, not least for rural development – the focus of this year’s World Tourism Day,” said Guterres. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to transform the relationship of the tourism sector with people, nature, the climate and the economy. We must ensure a fair distribution of its benefits and advance the transition to a carbon-neutral and resilient tourism economy.
“In this most challenging year, let us focus on tourism’s importance for people living in rural areas so we can deliver on the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to leave nobody behind.”
To mark World Tourism Day, several travel and hotel companies issued their own declarations of support for the industry, including TL Network Canada. According to J.D. O’Hara, CEO of parent company Internova Travel Group, one in 10 people globally are employed in the tourism industry, “making the travel restrictions devastating for the millions who depend on the tourism sector to put food on their tables and a roof over their head.” He adds that it is especially important to remember these people and what they are currently facing during the pandemic.
Christine James, Vice President of TL Network Canada, paid particular attention to rural areas that are now struggling. “We are more reliant than ever on tourism to empower rural communities to sustain their unique cultural traditions and provide jobs and opportunities for the locals, including women and youth. Our advisors, who assist their clients with tours in those areas, understand the positive impact of travel. This World Tourism Day is a great chance to recognize the role tourism plays outside of major cities as well as within it.”
Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts also commemorated the date with a personal message from Encarna Piñero, CEO of parent company Grupo Piñero. After noting how the company’s activity was brought to a standstill in March, he went on to thank its global teams and clients for their support, which allowed it to bounce back in July and start receiving guests once again.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the employees, travellers, suppliers, local community and all the industry companies that with their daily efforts make it possible to develop an industry as important as tourism, a key engine for economic, social and cultural development that actively contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals.
“I am totally convinced that tourism companies are a key element in tackling this crisis. For this reason, I would like to call on us all to be brave and responsible. And for this very same reason, I would like to call on all tourism companies to continue advancing towards, the sustainability of our business in order to promote change processes in our employees, clients and society at large to generate the shared value that we all need in times like this.”
For more information about World Tourism Day 2020 click here.