World Tourism Day has been celebrated on September 26th every year since 1980. This year, the theme is Tourism for Inclusive Growth.
2021 continues to be a challenging year for global tourism. According to a United Nations report on Covid-19 and Tourism, Assessing the Economic Consequences, tourism is one of the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of international tourist arrivals declined by 84 per cent between March and December 2020 compared with the previous year, according to data observed by UNWTO. Based on a range of tourist arrivals’ projections, the report quantifies the potential economic effects of the contraction in tourism in 2021. The indirect effects are significant. Due to linkages with upstream sectors such as agriculture, a drop in tourist sales leads to a 2.5-fold loss in real GDP, on average, in the absence of any stimulus measures. Based on three scenarios, one optimistic, one pessimistic and one where the asymmetric speed of vaccinations is considered, the economic losses could range between $1.7 trillion and $2.4 trillion in 2021. The results highlight the importance of the vaccine rollout in getting global tourism restarted and other mitigating measures.
Tourism is one of the world’s most important economic sectors, employing one in every ten people on Earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more. Tourism desperately wants a return to the ‘old normal’, but it would be a disaster. Dr. Susanne Becken, a globally recognised expert in the field of sustainable tourism observed that the disruption of COVID-19 has not been enough to shift the trajectory, nor has it prompted polluting sectors of the economy to reconsider the harm they inflict on the planet. Nowhere is this clearer than in the global tourism sector.
Dr. Becken and others are advocating a vision for the future of tourism that involves great changes and encourages a new connection with nature. This sustainable tourism vision is vastly different to what exists now – travel that is closer to home, slower, and with a positive contribution at its core. In this model, all erosion of natural, cultural and social capital ceases. The focus shifts from growth and profit to “regeneration” – helping to restore the natural world that humans have so badly damaged.
Net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is “too little too late” according to the latest report by the Climate Crisis Advisory Group with world-leading scientists reiterating that net zero carbon emission targets by 2050 is no longer adequate to avoid large-scale global disaster. It follows the August 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) titled ‘The Final Warning Bell’ which it states is the “final warning” for the future of humanity. Exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial level will take our world into the dangerous zone of climate change where damage to our natural world will be irreversible.
The new vision of sustainable tourism requires all sectors of the travel industry to step-up to rigorous sustainability with accountability and transparency to regain consumer trust, to leave destinations better than we find it, to support the Global Goals (also known as Sustainable Development Goals) and to reach Net Zero Carbon Emissions OR better – Carbon Positive – before 2030.
It must be NOW!