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UNWTO: Covid-19 could push tourism back to 2013 levels

The World Tourism Organisation has released an updated assessment of the likely impact of the Covid-19 on international tourism.

Considering the unparalleled introduction of travel restrictions across the world, the United Nations specialised agency for tourism expects that international tourist arrivals will be down by 20-30 per cent in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures.

However, UNWTO stresses that these numbers are based on the latest developments as the global community faces up to an unprecedented social and economic challenge and should be interpreted with caution in view of the extreme uncertain nature of the current crisis.

An expected fall of this magnitude could translate into a decline in international tourism receipts (exports) of between US$300-450 billion, almost one third of the US$ 1.5 trillion generated in 2019.

Taking into account past market trends, this would mean that between five- and seven-years’ worth of growth will be lost to Covid-19.

Putting this into context, UNWTO notes that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by four per cent, while the SARS outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4 per cent in 2003.

UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, said: “Tourism is among the hardest hit of all economic sectors.

“However, tourism is also united in helping to address this immense health emergency – our first and utmost priority – while working together to mitigate the impact of the crisis, particularly on employment, and to support the wider recovery efforts through providing jobs and driving economic welfare worldwide.”

Pololikashvili added that, while it is too early to make a full assessment of the likely impact of Covid-19 on tourism, it is clear that millions of jobs within the sector are at risk of being lost.

Around 80 per cent of all tourism businesses are small-and-medium-sized enterprises.

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Ewing to lead Turks & Caicos Islands Tourist Board

The Turks & Caicos Islands Tourist Board has announced the appointment of Pamela Ewing as director of tourism.

Minister of tourism, Ralph Higgs, congratulated Ewing on her appointment and stated: “The ministry of tourism welcomes the appointment of Pamela Ewing as director of tourism and as minister I am confident that she will continue to be an excellent brand ambassador for the destination.

“Her track record and standing throughout the industry and among our travel partners is exemplary and the Turks & Caicos Islands stands to benefit tremendously from her leadership in one of the most important sectors in our country.

“The entire country is pulling for you,” he added.

An accomplished professional with over 20 years of success across the travel, hospitality and marketing industries, Ewing brings a thorough array of knowledge and experience to her role as director of tourism for the Turks & Caicos Islands Tourist Board.

Her career has been defined by a passion for tourism – her innate ability to leverage partnerships and identify marketing and sales strategies has resulted in monumental brand growth and transformation.

Ewing added: “I am grateful for the privilege to be appointed director of tourism for my beautiful Turks & Caicos Islands!

“I look forward to being able to continue the development of brand Turks & Caicos Islands to the next stage.

“We will continue working with our industry stakeholders and my team to improve our luxury five-star brand, which you all know and love.

“I am excited for what is to come.”

Ewing joined the Turks & Caicos Islands Tourist Board in 2004 as regional marketing manager, and was instrumental in establishing an office in New York, creating a global brand presence for the destination.

Following her time at San Diego Mesa College, where she obtained an associate degree in hospitality management, Ewing attended Rutgers University and East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, where she received her bachelor’s degree in management.

She has also been admitted to the prestigious Georgetown University for her masters in internal business and policy.

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The Turks & Caicos Islands are considered the Caribbean’s Leading Beach Destination by voters at the World Travel Awards.

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WTTC warns 50 million tourism jobs could go in coronavirus outbreak

The World Travel & Tourism Council has argued up to 50 million jobs in the tourism sector are at risk due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

WTTC president, Gloria Guevara, said: “WTTC figures show the stark impact on the tourism sector of the present Covid-19 outbreak with analysis now suggesting that up to 50 million jobs are at risk in the sector globally.

“When the time is right, WTTC and the global private sector will be ready to help and support the government and countries to recover.”

Latest figures from WTTC, which represents the global tourism private sector, show that global travel could be adversely impacted by up to 25 per cent in 2020.

This is the equivalent to a loss of three months of global travel.

This could lead to a corresponding reduction in jobs of between 12 and 14 per cent.

“The Covid-19 outbreak clearly presents a significant threat to the industry as a whole, to those employed within it, and those wishing to continue travelling. 

“Travel has the strength to overcome this challenge and will emerge stronger and more robust by taking all necessary measures to tackle Covid-19 and the understandable concern which surrounds it.”

Following extensive consultation with other tourism organisations, WTTC is also calling for a series of measures to be taken, to enable the swift recovery of the sector once Covid-19 is under control. 

WTTC will offer its support to all governments, particularly those which are implementing strong policies for a prompt recovery such as:

  • Improve travel facilitation: Remove or simplify visas wherever possible, reduce the cost and improve processing times where practical, accept other visas when appropriate and introduce more efficient technologies for seamless and secure travel.
  • Remove barriers: Ensure that unnecessary barriers are removed or relaxed to alleviate pressure at ports and airports, including temporarily lifting of the 80-20 slot policy rule, ports assignments and implement flexible working visa for the industry in some countries with existing limitations, especially in hospitality and tour operation.
  • Ease fiscal policies: Reduce and remove travellers’ taxes which increases the cost of travel, e.g. air passenger duty and similar airport, port and hospitality taxes around the world.
  • Introduce incentives Introduce relief and incentives to support business continuity for companies which have been most negatively impacted by the virus.
  • Support destinations: Increase budgets and assign resources for promotion, marketing and product development purposes in destinations when they are ready to welcome visitors again.

At this time, WTTC reinforces the importance of strong public-private partnerships and greater international cooperation in order to respond and overcome the challenges faced by the sector during the management and recovery from Covid-19.

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ABTA calls on UK government for coronavirus support

ABTA is calling on the government to consider extraordinary support measures for businesses operating in the tourism sector in the budget next week.

The request comes in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

Following a meeting with the tourism minister last week, ABTA conducted a survey among its members to ask them about business impacts if the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen.

In a letter to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, ahead of the March 11th budget, ABTA has called for the government to consider steps to protect healthy businesses that may suffer financial distress.

These measures could include bridging loans, a relief to business rates, VAT and PAYE deadline extensions and reliefs and a six month ‘holiday’ from air passenger duty. 

Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said: “As the outbreak of coronavirus develops, travel businesses are under increasing pressure.

“They cannot wait to see what may happen in the months to come; we are asking the government to act now in taking steps to protect them.

“Among the travelling public, our priority remains to be proactive in providing up to date fact-based information and to give perspective so they can make informed decisions.

“We are also explaining the protections that are in place if they’re no longer able to travel.”

As the situation has developed, ABTA members have received an increasing number of questions from concerned customers about their travel plans.

With updates to travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office affecting mainland China, Italy and parts of South Korea, members have also been busy liaising with customers with imminent package holidays to offer alternative arrangements.

In a survey of members last week, 88 per cent said that they are receiving enquiries from consumers that are due to travel to areas that are not even affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, ABTA is conducting a very high level of media and communications activity to provide perspective, give accurate information and guidance to the travelling public and highlight the benefits of booking package holidays, which come with a range of consumer protections. 

These vital messages have been communicated to national and regional media, amounting to over 400 pieces of coverage since the end of January alone, with a combined reach of over 200 million viewers, listeners and readers.

ABTA has also been running a proactive paid for Facebook campaign to target people looking to travel with its latest advice.

So far this has resulted in over 850,000 impressions and will continue to engage with travellers over the coming weeks.

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