Tourism ‘intrinsically susceptible’ to climate shocks, political unrest, pandemic threat

United Nations

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During a high-level meeting on tourism as part of the General Assembly’s first ever Sustainability Week, Dennis Francis emphasized the importance of tourism as a driver of economic growth and empowerment. In 2023, the sector contributed three per cent to the global gross domestic product (GDP) and employed one in every ten people worldwide, with even higher percentages in special situations such as small island nations. However, Mr. Francis also acknowledged that tourism is vulnerable to various disruptive forces, including climate change, pandemics, terrorism, and political instability.

He also expressed concerns about the environmental and carbon footprint of the sector and stressed the need for sustainability to be a top priority. This includes promoting local value chains and supporting local communities, as well as utilizing digital technology to create job opportunities and economic growth for marginalized groups.

In addition, Mr. Francis called for the tourism sector to be resilient and able to withstand external shocks. This can be achieved through designing disaster-resistant infrastructure, fostering innovation, and diversifying tourism activities to reduce recovery time after disruptive events.

Zurab Pololikashvili, head of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), also spoke at the General Assembly and noted that despite current challenges, there is hope for the tourism sector. He highlighted the sector’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, with international arrivals expected to fully recover by the end of 2024.

This recovery should serve as a catalyst for transformative change, with tourism playing a role in creating a better future for all. The high-level event on tourism was followed by discussions on debt sustainability and upcoming discussions on sustainable transport, infrastructure, and energy are also scheduled for the week.

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