UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili

Only 4% of destinations in Africa have introduced specific policies to restart tourism, lagging considerably behind Europe, Asia and the Pacific as well as the Americas.

As many destinations begin to ease restrictions on travel, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released its first Briefing Note on Tourism and COVID-19, illustrating efforts taken to safeguard jobs and lay the foundations for recovery.

The Briefing Note, released on Monday (June 22) points out that destinations in Europe have led the way in introducing specific policies around restarting the industry, with 33% of destinations in the region having done so. In Asia and the Pacific, 25% of destinations have adopted restarting tourism policies, while in the Americas this figure stands at 14%.

From the start of the current crisis, UNWTO has urged both governments and international organisations to make tourism recovery a priority. The Briefing Note indicates that, of the 220 countries and territories assessed, 167 have reported taking measures to mitigate the effects of the crisis.

Of these, 144 have adopted fiscal and monetary policies, while 100 have taken specific steps to support jobs and training, both in tourism and other key economic sectors.

“The determination of governments to both support tourism, and now restart tourism, is testament to the importance of the sector. In many countries, particularly in the developing world, tourism is a major supporter of livelihoods and economic growth, and so it is vital that we restart tourism in a timely and responsible manner,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili.

UNWTO found that the most common form of economy-wide stimulus packages adopted by governments focused on fiscal incentives, including exemptions or deferrals of taxes (VAT, corporate income tax, etc.), as well as providing emergency economic assistance and relief to businesses through monetary measures such as special credit lines at reduced rates, new loan schemes and state banking guarantees to address liquidity shortage.

These policies are complemented with a third pillar to protect the millions of jobs at risk through flexibility mechanisms put in place in many countries, such as exemption or reduction of social security contributions, wage subsidies or special support mechanisms for self-employed.

Small businesses, which make up 80% of tourism, have received targeted assistance in many countries, according to the UNWTO Briefing Note.

Pololikashvili emphasises that, to restart tourism, restoring trust and confidence in the sector is crucial. In countries where tourism is back on the path to reignition, health and sanitary protocols, certifications and labels for clean and safe practices, and safety ‘corridors’ between countries are the most common measures.