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16 December 2021

Zurab Pololikashvili (WTO): “FITUR is contributing to the travel and tourism recovery”

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3 min.
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In this interview, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UNWTO, says that FITUR allows us to boost awareness and sustainability, contributing to the recovery in travel and tourism. He explains how the sector will develop and the new challenges it will have to face in 2022.

With the easing of travel restrictions and the progress with vaccination, international tourism is showing signs of revival. How do you assess the pace of recovery of the sector?

The pace of tourism recovery is excellent, as was to be expected given the resilience of our industry. However, we’re still far from the record levels of 2019. The relaxation of travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers and progress in the vaccine roll-out have contributed to increased consumer confidence in travel. Some destinations recorded increases in international tourism receipts in June and July.

Inconsistent travel restrictions and the uneven vaccination rate are the main obstacles preventing the full resumption of tourism.

How do you think tourism will evolve in 2022, and what new challenges will it face?

Most of the UNWTO Committee of Experts foresee a rebound driven by strong pent-up travel demand in the second and third quarters of 2022.

Nearly half of experts (45%) see international tourism returning to 2019 levels by 2024 or later, while 43% point to recovery by 2023. This depends mainly on three issues: the speed and uniformity of the vaccine roll-out, how fast confidence in travel is restored, and effective collaboration on travel and health protocols.

How should the tourism sector collaborate on developing more sustainable economies and more resilient and inclusive communities?

UNWTO stresses the urgent need for a globally coherent plan for climate action in tourism. The climate emergency is a more significant threat than Covid, and the tourism sector is both highly vulnerable to climate change and a contributor to it. This crisis is also an opportunity for the tourism industry to reflect and change course.

To help promote sustainability, UNWTO brought together public and private sector leaders at the WTM Ministerial Summit to discuss the sustainable future of tourism and the essential role that “green investment” will play in achieving it.

And at COP26, UNWTO presented the Glasgow Declaration in collaboration with more than thirty partners of the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme. This Declaration lays out a coherent plan for a decade of climate action in tourism. More than 300 tourism stakeholders have already signed the Declaration, including leading industry players and destinations, countries, and other tourism stakeholders, large and small.

The commitments proposed in the Glasgow Declaration are as follows: support the global commitment to at least halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero as soon as possible before 2050, deliver or update climate action plans within twelve months of signing, publicly report on targets on an annual basis, align with five shared pathways to accelerate tourism’s transformative capacity. These are: measure, decarbonise, regenerate, collaborate and finance, and work in a spirit of collaboration, sharing good practices and solutions, and disseminating information.

How do you think the next edition of FITUR will contribute to the recovery and strengthening of the tourism sector?

FITUR offers us the opportunity to boost awareness and sustainability from Madrid, our home. We need to promote government investment to encourage and increase private investment worldwide. FITUR is an excellent platform for this. This world-renowned fair is already helping revive travel and tourism, which in turn will help developing economies.