It is in the shadow of a new wave of Covid-19 that the twenty-fourth General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization starts in Madrid. It is the first magna meeting of this United Nations agency since the pandemic was declared and it constitutes a challenge: in the Spanish capital there are more than a thousand delegates from 135 countries.
Given the climate of uncertainty, the organization wants to approve a code that will restore confidence to travelers. Alicia Gómez Alapon, the agency’s legal expert, explains that the idea is to give guarantees to those who, faced with the widespread closure of borders, find themselves trapped in a different country” and define the terms of the basic assistance they will be entitled to receive: “what kind of assistance, under what conditions, who is responsible for providing basic assistance – government or companies -, how they coordinate to ensure that tourists are not left in a precarious situation,” he says.
Covid-19 – it is already known will dominate the meeting’s agenda, but the World Tourism Organization keeps medium and long-term goals on the table. It wants to design a more sustainable tourism and make use of digital tools to improve the services and experience of travelers.
The Greek deputy minister of Tourism does not hide her desire to know “what are the new trends” for travelers and understand “what they want to do after the pandemic”. Sofia Zacharaki knows that the so-called slow tourism, a model in which the traveler “explores nature and avoids crowds” has been growing and considers that businessmen and government officials “must take” this into account and “make competent policies” that make it viable .
Protect destinations and boost the economy
Policies that make tourism viable, but that preserve biodiversitybas and enhance economic and social development in destinations – This is the challenge that the 135 countries have on the table.
For Marcelo Risi, Communication Director of the World Tourism Organization, the key words are “sustainability, solidarity and inclusion – not only social but also economic, cultural and environmental”. This agency official emphasizes that “the pandemic shows us the deep social footprint that tourism has, as a very broad value chain”.
The World Tourism Organization warns that a new closure of borders and cancellation of flights from Africa are not the solution and could erase expectations of a recovery in tourism for the coming year. It is insisted that joint solutions must be found and to deal with the new variants