AFRICA NEWS | Volume 19. April 2021
COVID-19 has disrupted tourism and travel in an unprecedented way, putting at risk millions of livelihoods. The risk is especially great for the most vulnerable groups, including those whose daily source of income are from the informal sector. All this has an effect on local communities across Africa. Our Member States are witnessing disruptions in business continuity, closures and revenue losses. According to UNWTO’s estimates, one billion fewer international tourists traveled globally in 2020, and Africa recorded a 75% fall in international tourist numbers.
As a global response to the pandemic, under the leadership of the UNWTO Secretary- General, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, the Global Tourism Crisis Committee bringing together governments, public and private sector leaders and international organizations held its 8th meeting on 18 January. This was held within the framework of the 113th session of the UNWTO Executive Council. The outcome of the meeting was to give clear recommendations for harmonized, coordinated and digital COVID-19 travel protocols including testing, tracing and vaccination certificates. All of this is aimed at restoring traveler’s confidence and promoting safe travel, including through the establishment of an International Code for the protection of tourists.
As we reset, the challenges of the pandemic have also accelerated the opportunity to promote domestic tourism and intra-regional travel. Basing our future growth on sustainable tourism practices and the adoption of digitalization is now more than ever before critical for the recovery of the tourism industry than ever. Furthermore, there is an urgent need for promoting digital skills as technology becomes a key driver for competitiveness.
In light of the above, UNWTO through its online academy has made the development of human capital a key priority. We are addressing the gaps in reskilling and up-skilling to meet the emerging demands needed for the jobs markets of tomorrow and invite tourism students to get involved by sharing their talent and ingenuity in the World Tourism Student League. With a view of supporting our Member States across the region to rebuild the tourism sector, virtual meetings are being held to allow them to share the recommendations of UNWTO services and so respond to the pandemic in order to elaborate tailor-made solutions through the COVID-19 Tourism Recovery Technical Assistance Package and identify capacity-building programmes for tourism officials.
Africa remains one of the core priority regions of the UNWTO Secretary-General and this year the continent will celebrate two major UNWTO events; The official celebrations of the World Tourism Day in Côte d’Ivoire and the 24th UNWTO General Assembly in Morocco. In addition, earlier this the year, as part of our efforts in advocating Brand Africa, the publication “A Tour of African Gastronomy” was launched to promote Africa´s diverse and unique cuisine by showcasing the talent of our African Chefs and their state-ofthe art recipes. In alignment with SDG5, which promotes gender equality, together with our partner VoyagesAfriq, interviews and videos featuring African Women’s Chefs were shared through a podcast during March to mark International Women’s Day. This also helped increase the visibility of African gastronomy around the world and in the region in particular.
Finally, we are elaborating a white paper on Security in Tourism in collaboration with AUDA-NEPAD, and UEMOA. We aim to launch this within the framework of a Ministerial conference on the topic of security, due to be hosted by the government of Senegal towards the end of the year.
Looking ahead, though challenges remain, I am optimistic about the long-term prospects of our region. The current vaccine programes and the travel protocols being implemented and enhanced by local authorities are testimony to stakeholders’ engagement to position Africa as a safe destination. UNWTO will continue throughout the year to support and work with Member States and the private sector partners of the region to rebuild a resilient tourism sector and to prepare to welcome tourists again.