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Build Back Better Tourism

NEWS | 1 October 2020
Bali, the number one tourism destination in Indonesia has been affected by Covid-19 pandemic. Unsplash/NOW!JAKARTA

Recently, United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili shared, “The restart of tourism can be undertaken responsibly and in a way that safeguards public health while also supporting businesses and livelihoods. As destinations continue to ease restrictions on travel, international cooperation is of paramount importance. This way, global tourism can gain people’s trust and confidence, essential foundations as we work together to adapt to the new reality we now face.”

In support of this movement to restart tourism in the best way possible for the sake of future sustainability and environmental impacts, the UNWTO along with members of the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme recently published a position paper under the supervision of Dr. Dirk Glaesser, Director, Sustainable Development of Tourism, UNWTO.

The One Planet Vision for a Responsible Recovery of the Tourism Sector builds on the UNWTO Global Guidelines to Restart Tourism released by the Global Tourism Crisis Committee on 28 May 2020 with the objective to support tourism to emerge stronger and more sustainable from the Covid-19 crisis.

The vision is shared by the members of the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme and partner organisations. It calls for a responsible recovery of the tourism sector from the Covid-19 crisis. A recovery which is founded on sustainability, to build back better, and which therefore can underpin the resilience of the tourism sector.

The global pandemic has caused unprecedented socio-economic impacts and, at the same time, raised our awareness of the role sustainability needs to play in our everyday life and economic activities. Tourism, one of the hardest hit economic sectors, might face a decline of 58% and 78% in international tourist arrivals during 2020 and has 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk.

There are additional impacts, which are still difficult to quantify, such as pollution or threats to the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity, all directly linked to tourism. As of 18 May 2020, all destinations worldwide are observing travel restrictions for international tourism. Out of all 217 destinations, 163 (75%) have placed a complete stop on international tourism and, for the time being, only seven destinations have started to ease travel restrictions.

This situation makes it difficult to foresee when tourism operations will fully resume. It is nevertheless predictable that changes to the way tourism operated will be needed to exit a crisis of this magnitude. In line with the priorities outlined in the UNWTO Global Guidelines to Restart Tourism, this vision aims to support the development and implementation of recovery plans which contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement.

A #ResponsibleRecovery is needed to #BuildBackBetter tourism The Covid-19 crisis has emphasised the need to strengthen the resilience of the tourism sector and awakened a sense of unity and interconnectedness among tourism stakeholders. This crisis has highlighted both the fragility of the natural environment and the need to protect it, as well as the intersections of tourism economics, society and the environment like nothing before in history. It represents an opportunity to accelerate sustainable consumption and production patterns and build back better tourism. As governments and the private sector are now embarking on a path for recovery, there is no better timing for placing future generations at the centre of the action.

This implies long-term and holistic thinking with regards to the challenges of our world and thus connects with the need to transition to a more sustainable tourism model based on social inclusion and the restoration and protection of the environment. Our health and wellbeing depend on it. The tourism sector registered continuous growth in the past decade, creating significant benefits in terms of socioeconomic development and employment, which are now at stake.

At the same time, such growth represented important challenges related to the carrying capacity of destinations, consumption of natural resources and impacts on climate change. Addressing all these issues must be at the heart of a responsible recovery of the tourism sector, as the resilience of tourism will depend on the sector’s ability to balance the needs of people, planet and prosperity. Generating the necessary evidence to support decision making and effective action towards sustainability in tourism is now more pressing than ever.

As such, the vision recommends six lines of action to guide a responsible tourism recovery for people, planet and prosperity, namely public health, social inclusion, biodiversity conservation, climate action, circular economy and governance and finance. Please visit for the full guidelines and expanded details of each lines of actions.

Public Health

  1. Integrate epidemiological indicators in tourism
  2. Connect hygiene with sustainability
  3. Restore trust through communication

Social Inclusion

  1. Channel targeted support towards vulnerable groups
  2. Channel long-term support to small and medium enterprises
  3. Repurpose tourism as a supporter for the community

Biodiversity Conservation

  1. Capture the value of conservation through tourism
  2. Support conservation efforts through tourism
  3. Invest in nature-based solutions for sustainable tourism

Climate Action

  1. Monitor and report CO2 emissions from tourism operations
  2. Accelerate the decarbonisation of tourism operations
  3. Engage the tourism sector in carbon removal

Circular Economy

  1. Invest in transforming tourism value chains
  2. Prioritise sustainable food approaches for circularity
  3. Shift towards a circularity of plastics in tourism

Governance and Finance

  1. Measure beyond economic impacts
  2. Steer recovery funds towards better tourism
  3. Consolidate partnerships for implementation

Visit to learn about initiatives from partners that can support a responsible recovery for people, planet and prosperity.