G20 Tourism Ministers Meeting, 4 May 2021


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 4 May 2021

Dear Ministers,

It is a pleasure to join you today, under the stewardship of the Italian Presidency of the G20, to address the challenges of the tourism industry, one of the sectors most affected by the pandemic.

A year has passed since the Extraordinary G20 Tourism Ministers Meeting was convened by the Saudi Presidency of the G20 at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, and more than six month since the Diriyah Communiqué was adopted.

At the time I highlighted that it was essential to support our economies for as long as necessary, restart business operations as soon as it was safe to do so and to introduce measures to restore traveller confidence, such as safe and seamless travel.

This imperative remains as true today as it was then.

While the road ahead is somewhat brighter with positive growth prospects, notably thanks to progress on vaccines, this unprecedented crisis has impacted the livelihoods of millions of people throughout the world. It has exacerbated many pre-existing inequalities, especially those affecting women, the youth and workers in the informal economy - who are overrepresented in the tourism sector.

The health situation remains extremely serious in many countries and the recovery weak, fragile and uneven across countries and sectors.

Countries that depend heavily on tourism and international travel have experienced the biggest GDP declines in 2020, driven by a drop in international tourism last year which we estimated at around 75-80%, and are likely to suffer slower recoveries.

With consumer confidence dented and a myriad of travel restrictions still in place, the situation in the tourism industry remains precarious and uncertain, with estimates ranging from two to four years before international arrivals return to pre-pandemic levels.

However, the tourism sector has, in the past, demonstrated its resilience in the face of the most severe crisis: it was for example an essential asset for the recovery from the Great Financial Crisis.

For this to happen again, trust will be essential.

The G20 guidelines on safe and seamless travel that you endorsed last year are a stepping stone in rebuilding trust and resuming national and international travel. But more needs to be done.

As we look to rebuild the tourism sector, we have the power and the opportunity to put in place today measures that can shape a more resilient, sustainable and inclusive tourism economy for the future.

The G20 Rome Guidelines for the future of tourism, which the OECD is proud to have designed and developed with you, show us the way forward.

First, we need to restore safe and seamless international mobility.

This can only be achieved through common international approaches to COVID-19 testing and vaccination as well as related certification, and accessible, consistent, clear and updated information to travellers. The OECD is already working on meeting those requirements by developing the Blueprint for Safer International Travel, an initiative championed by Spain within the OECD, and open to all countries, which I warmly invite you to join.

Second, we need to turn this crisis into a catalyst for transforming tourism sectors and to move to greener and more sustainable models. From this perspective, delivering lasting change will require sustained and transformative action, beyond the current support measures.

In my home country, Mexico, the Ministry of Tourism has responded to the pandemic by developing a Sustainable Tourism Strategy 2030 aimed at generating a radical change in tourism destinations, and at promoting, with initiatives such as Kuxatur, a socially inclusive tourism sector, that is economically fair and committed to nature and biodiversity preservation.

Sustainability of the industry is essential to ensuring its survival: for example, coral reefs surrounding Japan are estimated to provide USD 1 billion per year in tourism benefits alone. They are thus strong candidate for restoration. Overall, the global ecotourism market is expected to reach USD 334 billion by 2027, up from USD 181 billion in 2019.

We also need to act to ensure that the tourism industry contributes to attaining climate and environmental objectives as defined by the Paris Climate agreement and by the post-2020 biodiversity framework, by:

  • Mainstreaming sustainability principles and environmental targets in tourism policies;
  • Improving the monitoring and measurement of environmental impacts of the tourism sector to guide decision-making and planning; and
  • Supporting tourism businesses to pursue sound environmental management and adopt green business models.

Third, we need to ensure that the benefits from tourism trickle down to the community level and promote inclusion of all people – including the most vulnerable – and all firms, including SMEs. The promotion of legislation, regulations and practices that provide and incentivise decent work; as well as the support to locally-based tourism MSMEs, supply chains, entrepreneurship, including through adequate financing, networking and training can prove instrumental in this regard.

We must turn this crisis into an opportunity to make the tourism industry a driver and a pillar of a long-lasting sustainable and inclusive recovery.

Count on the OECD to help you make the transformation, set out in the Rome Guidelines, a reality.


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