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OECD Secretary-General

G20 Tourism Ministers Extraordinary Virtual Meeting on COVID-19

 

Remarks by Angel Gurría,

OECD Secretary-General

24 April 2020

(as prepared for delivery)

 

 

Ministers,


Let me express my deepest sympathies for the lives lost in your countries to COVID-19.


In light of the economic crisis it has triggered - which the OECD estimated at a loss of 2pc of annual GDP growth per month of confinement - I commend the Presidency for calling this meeting.


Tourism has ground to a halt. Our early estimates suggest a 45% decline in the international tourism economy in 2020: up to 70% if normal activity does not resume until September. More than 90 governments have closed their border to tourists, while many more have imposed travel restrictions. The international flight network has disintegrated, with a 66% drop in scheduled flights. The impact on developing countries will be severe, considering the importance of this sector at the micro-level for households and communities and at the macro level as a major source of foreign exchange.


The recovery of the sector globally may be protracted, including from changes in behaviour and travel preferences around international travel, which could also harm inter-cultural understanding. It will be essential to restart business operations and stimulate demand once containment measures are progressively lifted, and to accompany this with measures to restore traveller confidence, such as seamless travel, including across borders.


Let me highlight some key policy levers:

 

  • First, providing social protections, such as expanding access to unemployment benefits for seasonal, casual and gig economy workers, also for self-employed workers.

  • Second, by providing financial relief to ensure the survival of tourism businesses, many of which face high fixed costs and seasonal revenue flows, such as postponed VAT payment and tailored credit guarantees, in particular for SMEs. Non-financial supports are also important, to provide guidance on standards and protocols for businesses to re-open, adapt and access new markets.

  • Third, by working closely with Employment, Finance and other Ministries, as well as with industry and social partners, to ensure that support flows fast to those parts of the tourism supply chain that are most in distress – from transport, travel agencies and tour guides, to accommodation, restaurants, cultural attractions and events.


Finally, international coordination will be key, in particular:

- on repatriation as well as ensuring travel bans are lifted coherently;

- on consumer protection, for instance cancellations “en cas de force majeure”.

- on real-time data sharing.


But, beyond the immediate responses, governments will need to learn the lessons of the crisis to prepare comprehensive tourism recovery plans that are resilient. This must include strengthening international and domestic co-ordination mechanisms, and putting in place strategies and marketing campaigns to develop an attractive and seamless post-crisis proposal to tourists.


As difficult as these times are, this crisis presents an opportunity to rethink the tourism system for a more sustainable and resilient future. Count on the OECD.

 

 

See also:

OECD work on Tourism

OECD work with G20 

 

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