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Global tourism leaders urge greater collaboration in face of Covid

Global tourism leaders have called for increased collaboration between governments, the sharing of vaccines and a transformation of the industry.

Speaking at the Evora ‘A World for Travel’ forum in Portugal, World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) president and chief executive Julia Simpson drew attention to “the huge social and economic effects” of the Covid pandemic and insisted: “We need stronger collaboration between governments.”

Simpson pointed out: “Parts of the world are still closed.” But she argued “border closures and restrictions are not the only issues”.

She criticised “the lack of a seat at the top table of government” for tourism and “the limited leadership shown by multilateral organisations”.

Simpson pledged: “The WTTC will fight for restitution of every one of the 62 million jobs lost in travel and tourism. We work to ensure travel and tourism has a seat at the top table.”

Taleb Rifai, co-chair of the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council and former secretary general of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), warned: “Today we can’t say tourism will leap forward to a better future.

“Covid-19 can’t be in the hands of each government individually. Governments have to work together.

“Tourism connects people and places – we can’t have one country doing one thing and another country doing another thing. We must work together.”

Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism for Jamaica, called for “greater equity” in vaccine distribution and “a reduction in vaccination hesitancy” to aid the recovery of destinations most dependent on tourism.

He told the forum “the real problem of equity of recovery” lies with vaccine inequity, saying: “It is stark. We can’t have a recovery that is asymmetrical. As a tourism family we have to make our voices heard. We must leave no one behind.”

Christian Delom, general secretary of A World for Tourism, insisted: “We must save the planet and the travel industry, not the planet or the industry.”

He asked: “What have we really done to ensure the sustainability of tourism? Do we want changes to be enforced on tourism from the outside? Are we prepared to make changes?”

Delom argued: “A transformation of travel and tourism is needed and there is no magic wand.

“Other sectors are making a transformation – energy, food, even mining. We are last and we are suffering with the pandemic. This is the starting point for discussions. How do we find a way out of this crisis?”

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