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Ministers ideate sector’s sustainable recovery

Tourism for Jamaica, Edmund unveiled a new global tourism labour force initiative

Tourism ministers from around the globe said supporting local workers and small businesses is a vital element of the sector’s sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

The politicians joined private sector bosses at the Ministers’ Summit at World Travel Market, in association with the UNWTO and WTTC.

They agreed sustainability and tackling the climate crisis must be top of their agenda but highlighted how training tourism staff and encouraging entrepreneurs and SMEs will boost local and regional economies, helping them to be more resilient.

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General, World Tourism Organisation, told ministers the sector must “urgently” rethink tourism as it can be a solution to the climate emergency and need for jobs.

“We need to rethink tourism as an employer – during the pandemic, large numbers of workers left tourism, not all of them have come back,” he said.

“We must make tourism an attractive sector to work in and invest in people; motivated young people are key to tourism’s success.”

He outlined how UNWTO has expanded its education programme, working with universities and educational institutions – with 20,000 students in 190 countries.

Pololikashvili also urged the tourism ministers to work closely with colleagues in other ministries to ensure the sector’s voice is properly heard at top government levels.

Julia Simpson, CEO and President at WTTC, agreed the post-pandemic recovery is an opportunity to “rethink our sector” and encouraged closer cooperation between the private and public sectors.

“Our sector creates one in 10 jobs on this planet and one in 10 dollars – that’s people being able to feed and educate their families,” she said.

“We have labour shortages and need to be inventive to attract the right people to our sector.”

The tourism minister for Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Al Khateeb, said the kingdom is investing $800 billion during the 2020s to build major tourism destinations and cities, adding: “We are focused on the planet, people and the place.

“We are making sure materials are environmentally friendly to ensure sustainability and using technology to facilitate the journey of visitors.”

Furthermore, one million jobs will be created in the next 10 years so an ambitious training project is needed.

“Saudi Arabia will train 100,000 people a year for the next 10 years,” he said.

The Maldives’ tourism minister, Abdulla Mausoom, said the nation aims to be “the most sustainable tourist destination” and is developing more accessible facilities to enable disabled travellers to visit.

Ahmed Issa, Egypt’s tourism minister, said the country is wooing expats as part of a “roots” tourism plan, and hoping to triple its aviation capacity.

Bahrain tourism minister, Fatima Al Sairafi, said: “Human capital is a main driver so we have invested heavily in that tourism capital. People are the main assets of tourism.”

Louis Steven Obeegadoo, the tourism minister of Mauritius, is also the country’s deputy prime minister and housing minister.

“We need to look beyond tourism to rebuild tourism,” he commented, highlighting the importance of private-public partnerships and collaboration.

Miguel Torruco Marques, the Mexican tourism minister, emphasised how important it had been to maintain domestic tourism during the pandemic, to help preserve the environment and local cultures.

Niels Olsen, the tourism minister of Ecuador, said his administration is working hard to develop air connections, offering incentives to airlines and tax breaks for airports.

It is also promoting the country to both luxury travellers and backpackers – and has launched a nomad visa.

Tourism ministers from the Philippines, Costa Rica and Nicaragua also highlighted the value of domestic holidaymakers, while Selamawit Dawit, state minister at Ethiopia’s ministry of tourism, described the sector as a “powerful force for peace”.  

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