BusinessDay

Tourism raises its voice for peace

…as UNWTO, WHO say travel measures should be based on risk assessment

After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, people, as well as societies and economies, have suffered enough. The world cannot afford for this to continue, hence must rebuild and look to the future with hope, not fear.

Bearing this in mind, Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), has disclosed that peace and mutual understanding are essential ingredients for recovery of world economies and tourism in particular. “Now is the time to work together, and for diplomacy instead of conflict in all parts of the world. We must not allow political tensions to turn into a man-made crisis that will undermine our collective progress.”

According to him, tourism is the main bridge for building understanding, amid its unique ability to promote peace between and among peoples everywhere.

“The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) stands firmly with UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his call for all countries to settle disputes through peaceful means and not through conflict, and that they respect international security and justice at all times.

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“As a part of the UN, giving a voice to people of all regions, backgrounds and nationalities, UNWTO also believes that the spirit of international solidarity and shared values that define not just tourism but also our common humanity will prevail. We also hope that diplomatic efforts to avoid conflict continue and succeed”, Pololikashvili.

In another development, the UNWTO and the World Health Organization (WHO), have called for the lifting of travel bans as they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to economic and social stress. The two UN agencies agreed to collaborate on a global trust architecture for recovery of the travel sector.

Over recent days, a growing number of countries around the world have started easing their rules for international arrivals, including the easing of travel bans. These decisions are in line with WHO’s latest recommendations for safe international mobility, which highlight the ineffectiveness of blanket restrictions in controlling virus transmissions. Such a trend is also consistent with UNWTO’s repeated warnings of the great social, economic and development harm of restrictions.

Guided by UNWTO, global tourism has followed WHO advice from the very start of this crisis

Recently, the leaders of UNWTO and WHO in Geneva agreed on the importance of easing or lifting travel bans. Blanket restrictions should be replaced with risk -based, evidence- informed, context-specific policies.

“Guided by UNWTO, global tourism has followed WHO advice from the very start of this crisis,” said the UNWTO secretary-general. He underscored the need to “continue to do so, and to open up again, safely and responsibly, and allow tourism to deliver on its unique potential as a driver of recovery and growth”.

According to the WHO International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee on COVID-19, all measures applied to international travellers should be based on “risk assessments – including testing, isolation and vaccinations”. Furthermore, the financial burden of such measures should not be placed on travellers themselves.

“As countries ease travel restrictions, health must remain the key priority. By basing their decisions on evidence and a risk-based approach adapted to their specific context, countries can find the right balance between keeping people safe, protecting livelihoods and the economy, and keeping borders open”, said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The two UN agencies also stressed the need for clear and consistent rules relating to health and travel. There is a need for building a global trust architecture for societies and economies in the context of the pandemic, and there is a “real opportunity for tourism to contribute to that process, with UNWTO playing a critical role”, said Dr Michael Ryan, executive director, WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.

Properly managed, tourism has the potential to act as a force for development and opportunity, as highlighted in the sector’s enhanced relevance in the wider United Nations development agenda. Destinations around the world report increased tourist arrival numbers on the back of easing or removing restrictions. This trend offers the potential to kick start economic recovery and put social development progress back on track.

Among the countries to have revised their travel restrictions is Switzerland, one of Europe’s leading destinations, which welcomed the UNWTO delegation at the beginning of a week of key meetings.

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