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Zimbabwe Celebrates World Tourism Day, Nations Bemoan COVID-19 Devastating Impacts on the Sector

World Tourism Day 2021

Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world yesterday in celebrating World Tourism Day which was running under the theme ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth’, a theme that focuses on tourism’s ability to drive inclusive development and the role it plays in generating economic opportunities for millions across the globe.

Tourism is one of the world’s most important economic sectors which employs one in every ten people on Earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more, and for some countries, it can represent over 20 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the UN.

It is also recognized as a pillar of most if not all the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), particularly Goals 1 (no poverty), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work and economic growth), and 10 (reduce inequalities).

For Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) has it that tourism contributed 7, 2, and 6,5 percent of the country’s GDP in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

September, ZTA highlighted, was the month in Zimbabwe which brought an emphasis on the promotion of the nation’s diverse tourism offering both tourism growth and inclusivity.

Celebrating the day, various officials bemoaned the global Covid-19 pandemic has brought devastating impacts on the sector through gradual recovery was being witnessed.

In Zimbabwe, it has been indicated that the gradual opening of the sector in the first quarter of 2021 saw positive trends of nearly 70 000 tourists.

Recently speaking to Anadolu Agency, Spokesperson for ZTA, Godfrey Koti said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive social and economic impact.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has really decimated the tourism sector in a very big way.

“You will notice that in 2019, we had contributed about 1,3 billion US dollars to the fiscus. However, that was not to be in the year 2020 owing to the global pandemic, meaning then, we contributed 359 million US dollars to the fiscus. Our target, our comfort zone was always between six and eight percent contribution to the GDP,” he said.

According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO), the impact of COVID-19 on tourism will cost the world economy 4 trillion dollars, and developing countries will be among the most affected ones and tourism experts do not expect a return to pre-COVID arrival levels until 2023 or later.

“The biggest crisis in the history of tourism continues into a second year. Between January and May, international tourist arrivals were 85% below 2019 levels (or a 65% drop in 2020). Despite a small uptick in May, the emergence of COVID-19 variants and the continued imposition of restrictions are weighing on the recovery of international travel. Meanwhile, domestic tourism continues to rebound in many parts of the world.

“Developing countries have borne the biggest brunt of the pandemic’s impact on tourism due to the absence of widespread COVID-19 vaccinations. They suffered the largest reductions in tourist arrivals in 2020, estimated at between 60% and 80%,” said UNTWO.

The UN pointed out that both developed and developing economies have been hit with marginalized groups and the most vulnerable have been hit hardest of all.

UN stressed that the restart of tourism will help kickstart recovery and growth highlighting that it is essential that the benefits this will bring are enjoyed widely and fairly.

In his official message on World Tourism Day, the UNTWO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said the human desire to travel and explore is universal, which is why tourism must be open for everyone to enjoy.

He said tourism can help societies to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and deliver hope to those who need it the most as he underscored that growth must benefit every part of the sector and everyone.

“So too must the many social and economic benefits that tourism brings be available to everybody. World Tourism Day 2021 highlights the power of ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth’.

“By celebrating this day, we state our commitment that, as tourism grows, the benefits that come will be felt at every level of our broad and diverse sector, from the biggest airline to the smallest family business.

“Today, we reaffirm our pledge that, as we move forward and work to build a more prosperous and peaceful world through tourism, we will not leave anyone behind.

“It is a pledge that is both timely and necessary. The pause in international travel caused by the pandemic has made clear the relevance of tourism to our societies.

“The economic and social impact has been felt far beyond the sector itself. And in many places, the most vulnerable members of society have been hit hardest of all. Working for inclusive growth means getting everybody behind a better vision for tourism. Only this way can tourism’s restart reach the people and communities that need it the most right now and build the foundations for a better future for all,” he said.

Pololikashvili added that looking into the future, inclusive decisions will be key to transforming tourism into a better sector and deliver fair, greener and more resilient tourism.

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres said the UN recognizes the power and potential of tourism to advance the prosperity and drive inclusive, sustainable development.

With many millions of livelihoods in jeopardy, he said it was high time to rethink, transform, and safely restart tourism.

“On this World Tourism Day, the COVID-19 pandemic represents an opportunity to rethink the future of the tourism sector. Tourism has a unique ability to make sure nobody is left behind, as recognized by the Second Principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs.

“The tourism sector touches almost every part of our economies and societies, enabling historically marginalized people and those at risk of being left behind to benefit from development that is local and direct.

“Tourism continues to suffer enormously under the COVID-19 pandemic: in the first five months of this year, international tourist arrivals decreased by a staggering 95 percent in parts of the world and forecasts suggest a loss of over $4 trillion to global GDP by the end of 2021. This is a major shock for developed economies, but for developing countries, it is an emergency,” said Guterres.

He further highlighted that change was also severely affecting many major tourist destinations, particularly Small Island Developing States where tourism accounts for nearly 30 percent of economic activity.

“With the right safeguards in place, the tourism sector can provide decent jobs, helping to build resilient, sustainable, gender-equal, inclusive economies and societies that work for everyone. This means targeted action and investment to shift towards green tourism – with high emitting sectors, including air and sea transport and hospitality, moving towards carbon neutrality.”

He emphasised that it was imperative to give everybody a say in how tourism shapes the future of societies and the planet.

Only through inclusive decision-making, he said, the world can ensure inclusive, sustainable growth, deliver on the promise of the SDGs, and transform tourism to fulfill its potential as an engine for prosperity, a vehicle for integration, a means to protect the planet and biodiversity, and an agent of cultural understanding between peoples.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Tourism and Leisure of Côte d’Ivoire, Siandou Fofana said the theme “Tourism for Inclusive Growth’ resonates as an anthem of unity of the entire global tourism community, under the auspices of the UNWTO.

“It is a new opportunity for the revival of our sector, with a view to the prosperity of our valued populations. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry had demonstrated, through its transversality and job-creation capacity, that it was a powerful lever to fight against poverty and to promote the social and economic inclusion of vulnerable groups. This is precisely the meaning and essence of the inclusive nature of Tourism,” said Fofana.

Ms. Mokkaden from the African Development Bank(ADB) said tourism matters because it plays an important role in people’s general well-being, attitude toward life, sense of control, and outlook.

“It is a key pillar of national development contributing to local economic development and growth, employment, investment as well as technology dissemination. Besides travel, tourism is also closely linked with sectors such as health, education, climate, and environment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disparate impact on SME-dominant sectors, specifically in tourism, industries, trade, and services. The African Development Bank has provided a USD 10 billion Covid Response Facility to the Continent. It has also provided support to the tourism sector in various countries,” said Mokkaden.

ADB, she said, will continue to support the sustainable recovery of tourism, promoting private sector participation combined with the digital transition, moving to a greener tourism system, and rethinking tourism for the future.

Meanwhile, commissioning the World Tourism Day at Paradise Pools in Bindura, the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mangaliso Ndlovu said the ministry was going to identify more potential tourism products in Mashonaland Central to increase the Province’s GDP and create employment.

Launching the tourism month festivities earlier this month, he stressed the need for tourism players to embrace inclusivity to ensure that businesses are revitalized.

World Tourism Day is observed globally on September 27 highlighting the travel industry’s social, economic, political, and cultural significance.

UNWTO as the United Nations specialized agency for responsible and sustainable tourism is guiding the global sector towards inclusive recovery and growth.

UNWTO ensures every part of the sector has a say in its future including communities, minorities, youth, and those who would otherwise be at risk of being left behind.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende