Home News The Policy Brief: COVID-19 and Transforming Tourism
Home News The Policy Brief: COVID-19 and Transforming Tourism
The Policy Brief: COVID-19 and Transforming Tourism

COVID-19 has severely affected all aspects of the tourism industry, including its economic, environmental, and social components.

The Policy Brief: COVID-19 and Transforming Tourism describes the severe, negative effects of the pandemic on global tourism, including job loss, the depletion of natural resources, and the lack of World Heritage site protection. The Policy Brief also emphasizes the need to rebuild tourism based on the five priorities set out below.

1. Managing the crisis and mitigating the socioeconomic impact

The Policy Brief emphasizes the importance of effective communication between government, industry operators, and the community for developing recovery strategies. For instance, Ecuador and Seychelles postponed the payment of specific taxes in the tourism sector, while Kenya, South Africa, China, Lithuania, Portugal, Poland or Spain made funding available for enterprises affected by the pandemic, through special funds, the model of a travel guarantee fund, subsidies or co-financing of costs for postponed or canceled events.

2. Boosting competitiveness and building resilience

The importance of rethinking the structure of tourism economies to boost their competitiveness and flexibility through investments in education and skills development.

Furthermore, the Policy Brief stresses the significance of promoting domestic and regional tourism. Recently, Hokkaido Prefecture in Japan launched a grant program to promote local resident travel within its territory. The funds subsidize the tourism providers’ operating costs, thus reducing customers’ travel expenses. This micro tourism model supports the sustainability of local businesses, minimizes the spread of the virus by limiting transportation requirements, develops resident pride, and promotes travel.

3. Advancing innovation and the digitalization of the tourism ecosystem

The recovery of tourism will not be possible without the help of innovative technology. Although QR code menu apps, virtual reality travel brochures, and touchless payment systems were available prior to the pandemic, they are now becoming more important for hotel operators, property owners, and guests. Data mining and machine learning techniques should be implemented to re-engage with travelers and customers as well.

4. Fostering sustainability and inclusive green growth

Thanks to the advancement of green technology and innovations, numerous opportunities have become available for the tourism industry to transform itself into a responsible and sustainable sector of the world economy. For example, using the Internet of Things, including smart devices, hotel operators can personalize environmental conditions, such as in-room temperature, water usage, and room cleaning order, based on guest preferences, thereby increasing efficiency and eliminating waste.

For example, Hilton set a long-term sustainability goal to halve its environmental impact through green technologies by 2030. In another example, the Hotel Icon in Hong Kong reduced the use of plastic water bottles by installing a purified water filtering system and offering recycled carafes and glassware for each guestroom.

5. Strengthening coordination and partnerships to transform tourism and achieve the SDGs

The future of tourism depends on building partnerships at all levels. By the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the response packages from numerous Governments have amounted to around $11 trillion. The funds are used for saving lives and protecting the livelihoods of those directly hit by COVID-19. In addition, McKinsey reports that G20 nations have announced fiscal measures averaging 11 percent of GDP, with some countries committing up to 40 percent of GDP to their economic stimulus packages. The Government of Jamaica has allocated $1.2 billion in grants to businesses operating in tourism and related sectors. Finland allocated €5.5 billion to support a sustainable emergence from the crisis; some of those funds can be used to recover and further develop nature tourism, including protecting green areas, water services, and forest conservation.

Some developed countries have pledged to support developing and low-income countries in several funding modules and special projects designed to assist with recovery from the financial crisis. For example, Germany promised to spend €68 million on 29 projects in 25 countries and support 16 implementing partners of the International Climate Initiatives.

Lastly, some private companies are working with Governments to recover and advance business initiatives that will benefit the local community. Kangwon Land Resort in the Republic of Korea has created 236 jobs, hiring local elderly people, residents with disabilities, and women, using innovative projects to revitalize the community.

Tourism is one of the most affected sectors of the economy by the current crisis. UNWTO emphasizes that to overcome the crisis support as well as cooperation at all levels: international, public, and private - are required.