Digitalisation and innovative solutions provide a unique opportunity to scale up operational procedures that make travel safe and seamless, while mitigating the possible impacts of new protocols in terms of increased waste generation, water and energy use. Electronic check-in at hotels and touchless border control and airline boarding can advance safety and security while minimising waste.
Additionally, necessary health and safety protocols may lead to more waste, including masks, gloves, gowns, food packaging, and other disposable protective equipment. There may also be a rise in water scarcity and waste management.
Bringing Sustainable Consumption and Production Models (SCP) and circularity into the heart of tourism design, operation and supply chain is therefore fundamental to ensure increased efficiency in the use of resources, food production and supply, consumables, and the sound management of energy, water and waste.
Strengthen coordination, partnerships and
solidarity for socio-economic recovery
To boost business recovery and traveller confidence, socio-economic recovery programmes and travel protocols could be developed and implemented through strong national and international cooperation and coordination, a whole-of-government approach, public/private sector partnerships, and community engagement.
Full coordination with health authorities and international cooperation, and on consumer protection policies and travel restrictions are essential to promote safe travel, build confidence, and accelerate recovery as tourism restarts. The lifting or imposing of travel restrictions should be fully coordinated among countries to ensure the safe restart of tourism. Effective reopening and recovery plans and policies would require structures that are more dynamic and agile, and that allow for better coordination among all stakeholders – including different ministries and public authorities – to advance safety and security, respond to market behaviour and shifts, and move towards more sustainable consumption and production practices.
Particular attention should be given to most sensitive/ vulnerable destinations in recovery phase.
Boosting competitiveness and building resilience
The crisis has revealed the need to rethink the structure of tourism economies, to improve competitiveness and build resilience. To that end, the sector could:
* Adopt new policy frameworks that are more conducive for a sound and resilient business environment
* Support the development of tourism infrastructure and quality services that enable the development of other related sectors and facilitate investment for local MSMEs
* Provide alternative income sources for tourism-dependent communities to build crisis resilience
* Invest in education and skills development – including for women – in all areas, to promote added value jobs and resilience; for instance, language skills development
* Establish an inclusive model of productive linkages between the tourism sector and the rest of the economy – especially transport and trade sectors – through various goods and services
* Diversify markets and products, address seasonality, and promote all-year-round demand
* Improve the inter-linkages between enhanced transport and connectivity and tourism, and strengthen resilient and sustainable transport infrastructure as an enabling factor to steer the tourism sector on a more sustainable and inclusive path
* Improve the visitor experience through new experiences, including cultural heritage and expressions and creative industries
* Promote domestic and regional tourism, where possible
* Repurpose skills and competencies to diversify beyond tourism, and establish “smart sector mix” in places where tourism has become the sole economic activity
* Enhance the overall competitiveness of MSMEs, and advance the formalisation of the sector; and
* Create early warning systems for tourism-based companies and destinations’ risk assessments.
This crisis also calls for a stronger framework to measure the full impacts of tourism and to build evidence-based policies. Tourism could step up data intelligence systems, science-based approaches, and assessment mechanisms based on clear indicators and targets, such as the ongoing process to adopt the Measuring Sustainable Tourism Initiative, which aims to measure the three dimensions of tourism sustainability – economic, socio-cultural and environmental – and the UNWTO International Network Sustainable Tourism Observatories.
Supporting developing countries with their statistical capacities, and strengthening the deployment of digital and other emerging technologies and tools for monitoring and reporting are essential for the sustainable planning and management of tourism.
Advancing innovation and the digitalisation of the tourism ecosystem
Recovery of tourism destinations and companies would be fully dependent on their capacity to take advantage of technology to better understand and monitor travellers’ needs and trends, create and market innovative experiences, use digital platforms to enhance the competitiveness and agility of MSMEs to reach customers. Artificial intelligence and big data can help manage flows and protect communities and resources.
Recovery packages could have a special focus to maximise the use of technology; advance the digitalisation of MSMEs; promote network processes to create innovative solutions; and invest in digital skills, particularly for workers, including female and youth, temporarily without an occupation and for job-seekers. Building tourism innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems can help advance digital transformation. Innovation focus on adopting digital models for managing the sector and creating new jobs, as well as new sustainable products and experiences that link travellers with nature and creative industries, can empower communities and promote safe journeys through technology.
Fostering sustainability and inclusive green growth
The crisis offers an unprecedented opportunity to transform the relationship between the tourism sector and nature, and so contribute more fully to Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Enhancing sustainable regional tourism development provides considerable benefits: from making tourism-dependent regions less vulnerable to economic threats to using resources more sustainably, creating green jobs, and enhancing transport connectivity. Tourism should shift towards a resilient, resource-efficient and carbon neutral sector, building existing efforts, including aligning with the One Planet Network Sustainable Tourism Programme.
About the Author: JC. Bhagwandin is an economic and financial analyst, lecturer and business & financial consultant. The views expressed are exclusively his own and do not necessarily represent those of this newspaper and the institutions he represents. For comments, send to [email protected]