TOURISM officials from APEC’s member economies are intensifying cooperation to effectively mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism industry and pave the path to recovery.
At the APEC Tourism Working Group virtual meeting recently, attention was drawn to the significant impact of the pandemic on international travel and international tourist arrivals being set back by 58-78 percent in 2020.
“The tourism industry is the first sector to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and will be among the last ones to recover, as travelers become more conscious of the health risks and are discouraged by the stringent travel restrictions being implemented around the world,” Senior Director of Tourism Policy and International Relations of Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture Muhammad Daud stated.
“We have to assume our role by consolidating our efforts in areas where we can support businesses and communities in the region,” Daud stated as noted in a press release issued by the APEC Tourism Working Group and received here on Monday (18/5).
The Asia-Pacific region registered the highest growth in terms of tourist arrivals globally, with a total of 464.7 million international tourist arrivals in 2017, or some 33 percent of the global tourism arrivals. Going forward, this will no longer be the case.
“It will take a long time before confidence and trust in traveling again is restored among the people. Even if the situation were to improve, it would take a while for global travel to pick up the pace,” Rebecca Sta Maria, APEC Secretariat’s executive director, noted in her remarks to officials.
“The tourism industry is the backbone for several of our small businesses, women, and vulnerable communities. We must fine-tune our approach to provide necessary support to people in our communities to navigate through these difficult times,” she emphasized.
The travel and tourism sector employs 57.5 million people in the APEC region and contributes US$1.5 trillion to the global gross domestic product. A total of 470 international airports in APEC economies facilitate business and leisure travel. The scale of the industry’s contribution to the economy makes it a crucial driver of growth for the region.
Work in promoting sustainable and inclusive tourism within APEC is ongoing, including aligning policies among member economies, facilitating travel, and streamlining coordination mechanisms. Based on the current developments, the group is reviewing existing work plans and goals, including exploring the best-possible solutions to conform to the new normal within the tourism industry.
The group will also boost efforts to strengthen resilience in the tourism sector by incorporating risk and emergency management measures, increasing information flow for sharing best practices, and encouraging greater collaboration.
“Members are keen to open up the economy and revive the tourism sector. However, the health and safety of travelers are paramount. We need to work closely with our health and emergency preparedness agencies in developing standard procedures that will simultaneously instill confidence, encourage travel, and ensure safety,” Daud emphasized. Related news: APEC trade ministers issue statement on COVID-19 pandemic.[antaranews/photo special]