The dramatic plunge in global tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic is having far-reaching and devastating effects, particularly for Small States. Yesterday, during a Commonwealth Tourism Seminar, the Commonwealth Secretariat proposed the development of a global ‘Tourism Action Plan’ to help spur a much-needed recovery.
Tourism is the economic lifeblood for many Commonwealth Small States, in particular Small Island Developing States (SIDs) where almost 90% of tourism comes from international tourists.
Speaking at the event, the Hon Allen Chastanet Prime Minister of St Lucia explained the local impact:
“This crisis has given us the perfect economic lab to examine the impact of tourism because we have lost it for 18 months. In St Lucia, we’ve had a 20% contraction in our economy, 90% of that was because of the inaccessibility of tourism. Our debt stock increased by 10% and our economy contracted by 20%. We now know given the fallout that the economic impact of tourism in our own destinations is very far-reaching and creates opportunities that maybe were not taken advantage of in better days.”
According to the UN, since the beginning of the pandemic, globally there were over 1 billion fewer tourism arrivals, causing a loss of more than $4 trillion to the global GDP for the years 2020 and 2021.
Drawing on research from a new Commonwealth report, ‘Tourism and COVID-19: Mapping a Way Forward for the Commonwealth Small States’, the action plan provides a number of practical policy options for reviving the tourism sector over the short, medium and longer term.
The recommendations emphasize that to restore global tourism and stimulate demand there is a need to foster traveller confidence and protect workers employed in the tourism industry, especially vulnerable groups.
Furthermore, it highlights that the recovery of tourism in Commonwealth States, particularly small states, is dependent on the actions of major tourism source markets, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. This underlines the need for coordination between source markets and traveller destinations to facilitate and foster tourism demand.
Speaking ahead of the Seminar, Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC said:
“This seminar comes at an opportune time when the global tourism industry is striving to re-open. We have prepared a tourism action plan which we believe could be effective in helping to foster a Commonwealth tourism industry that is more resilient, vibrant, inclusive, and environmentally sustainable. Restoring tourism requires a concerted effort and collaboration at bilateral, regional, and international levels.”
Secretary-General Scotland called on all countries to work collectively on these actions and on a way forward. As recovery will not only depend on domestic policies but also on the regional and international collaboration necessary to achieve common goals.