Two weeks ago, the United Nations declared February 17 as International Tourism Resilience Day to be recognized annually, starting this month. This dedication acknowledges how the tourism industry has been affected by external factors such as the pandemic, as well as how far the industry has come in the wake of crises.
The goal of marking this as an international day is to increase awareness by educating the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and celebrate all that has been achieved to rectify the industry post pandemic.
Tourism global impact
For many nations around the globe, tourism is a major source of income, foreign currency earnings, tax revenue and employment. In fact, tourism supports millions of direct and indirect jobs all over the world, especially for young people and young women in particular. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the industry accounts for over 20 percent of gross domestic product in many small island states and developing countries.
Effect of the pandemic on tourism
Tourism has an estimated economic contribution of over 1.9 trillion in 2021, up from 1.6 trillion in 2020, but this is still nowhere near the 3.0 trillion the industry was at before the pandemic. These numbers put into perspective the drastic effect the pandemic had on tourism, and therefore countries that rely heavily on the benefits tourism has on their economy.
Although there has been promising growth so far since the low in 2020, there is still much more opportunity for growth. The sharp decline in the tourism industry has disproportionately affected smaller developing countries, with some relying on tourism for nearly 80% of exports. This has impacted female workers especially, as they make up over half of the workforce in the industry. Tourism businesses are typically small businesses that focus on leisure activities and souvenir-type goods, and therefore even more vulnerable to crises. 90% of museums had to close during the pandemic, and 13% will not reopen.
There are also many indirect ways the pandemic has affected the tourism sector. The sudden fall in tourism cuts off funding for biodiversity conservation, as 7% of world tourism relates to wild life, a section of the industry that is only growing. It has also drastically affected intangible cultural heritage practices such as festivals and handicraft markets.
As the tourism sector is on the mend and continuously rebuilding, there is the memory of the pandemic in the rear view mirror as a reminder of the importance of resilience. Resilience, or the ability to stay consistent in the event of a crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic, is crucial for any industry but especially for a relatively vulnerable one such as tourism.
How T-Crisis-Nav is supporting resilient tourism
The Navigating Tourism Crisis Recovery (T-CRISIS-NAV) project is working to teach SMEs and future entrepreneurs in the tourism sector to gain skills needed to be successful and navigate their business through a crisis. With the help of T-CRISIS-NAV, they will be able to analyze the extent of the crisis and develop suitable countermeasures to navigate a crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
After two years of the T-CRISIS-NAV project, the team met up this past October in Iceland to develop a better understanding of how micro businesses in the country responded to the Covid 19 pandemic. Iceland had a unique case in regards to the tourism sector because it actually displayed an increase in visitor numbers in comparison to pre-pandemic. This case study is helping to inform the content of the educational modules being developed by the project to help entrepreneurs and decision makers in the industry be better prepared for future crises.
The educational resources will be available through the app, which will allow them to be accessible to a wide audience, but also in educational workshops with partner countries. These events will take place in late spring.
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