Effective communication of Covid-19 measures and protocols are key to ensuring the tourism sector remains resilient and people continue to travel, said Zoritsa Urosevic, executive director of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), citing Greece as an example of success.
In an interview to UN News, Urosevic said the most successful countries were those that were able to communicate very clearly, and spell out the protocols.
“Greece is a great example: they opened up in July 2020, but communicated well in advance, and many tourists who had been planning to go elsewhere went to Greece instead, because they were well informed,” she said.
Urosevic said it was time to rethink tourism on the back of Covid-19, which she said has been the biggest crisis ever for the sector.
“Basically, it’s like we went back 30 years in 2020.” She went on to add that hopes that the industry will rebound have been dented by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
Urosevic admitted that developed countries were much better prepared to address the impact of Covid. They were in the position to offer financial packages to support the industry and small businesses, and preserve people’s jobs and had the size and purchasing power to switch to domestic tourism. On the other hand, “developing countries have been really struggling to do that,” she said.
Looking ahead, Urosevic predicts rural development through tourism is going to be one of the major trends in the sector. “We have launched an initiative called ‘Best Tourism Villages’, and we are going to have a global center for rural development of tourism.”
She also believes the sector will emerge stronger from the health crisis. Key is to improve education and training as well as maintain a unified front against the deadly virus.
“We are totally aligned with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the importance of engaging in safer travel protocols rather than stopping travel altogether, because we know how many livelihoods depend on tourism, not only directly, but also those working in the industries that depend on the sector, such as food production, services, and manufacturing,” she said.
Urosevic went on to add that the UNWTO is calling for the harmonization of travel protocols.
“This sector is very resilient: we all dream and we all want to travel. Tourists will come back, and they will be more respectful than before: there will be a new path for happiness in tourism and cultural exchange,” she concluded.