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Coronavirus outbreak: World tourism body expresses solidarity with China, others

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The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has issued a statement on the recent outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), both in China and worldwide, assuring that the global tourism body is closely monitoring developments and is cooperating closely with the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the statement, UNWTO noted that, since the very start of the emergency, the Chinese authorities have acted swiftly and decisively, expressing its solidarity with the Chinese people, its government and its tourism sector at these challenging times.

The body observed that in recent years, China has emerged as a true global tourism leader, both as a source market and as a leading destination in itself, providing livelihoods for millions of people across the country. And tourism will offer a valuable lifeline as China recovers and rebuilds from this setback, just as the sector has proven its resilience many times before.

“During times of crisis, tourism has to live up to its responsibility as an integral part of wider society. The sector must put people and their wellbeing first.

The cooperation of the tourism sector will be vital in stopping the spread of the virus and limiting its impact on people and communities. Tourists also have a responsibility to inform themselves before they travel in order to limit the threat of transmission, and they should follow the recommendations of the WHO and their own national health authorities.

“Tourism is vulnerable to the effects of public health emergencies and is already being affected by this outbreak. However, it is too early to fully estimate the impacts this outbreak will have. “UNWTO as the specialised UN agency for tourism will continue supporting WHO, the lead UN agency for the management of this outbreak by advising and providing tourism specific guidance,” the body assured.

Meanwhile, the role of tourism and investment in African development took centre stage at the FITUR trade fair in Madrid, as sector leaders joined the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for the 11th edition of INVESTOUR (Tourism Investment and Business Forum for Africa), which saw the participation of over 20 African Ministers and Heads of delegations.

Supported by Casa Africa (Representing the Spanish Government), the International Tourism Fair of Madrid (FITUR) as UNWTO’s official partners and in collaboration with Côte D’Ivoire, this latest meeting of Investour focused on the continent’s potential on creative industries as well as on the potential benefits of diversifying the tourism sector, in particular as a means of driving rural development.

Against the backdrop of FITUR, the round table discussion explored the untapped potential of gastronomy tourism and the growing African fashion industry, particularly with regards to attracting international tourists. In addition, a session was also dedicated to the presentation of 10 projects aiming at the development of tourism in various countries in Africa, such as South Africa, Zambia, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Côte d’Ivoire.

The forum came on the back of the UNWTO General Assembly unanimously approving its Agenda for Africa 2030, a roadmap and strategic framework for tourism for sustainable development and inclusive growth. At the same time, the 11th edition of INVESTOUR was held during UNWTO’s Year of Tourism and Rural Development, with this theme the main focus of discussions between tourism leaders from both the public and private sectors.

Opening INVESTOUR 2020, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The creative industries, including a thriving fashion industry, culture and gastronomy are all increasingly relevant ‘pull factors’. They are encouraging visitors to see another side to Africa. Investment in these sectors will pay dividends, not just for investors themselves but, equally or more important, also for African society as a whole.”

Also during FITUR, UNWTO released its latest data on international tourist numbers and trends. The data shows that international arrivals to African destinations reached 71 million in 2019 and grew by 4 per cent when compared with the previous year. This trend is expected to continue over the years ahead, and UNWTO has stated its commitment to supporting its African destinations grow their tourism sectors responsibly and sustainably. Next month, Côte d´Ivoire will host the 1st UNWTO Global Tourism Investment Forum in Africa, a landmark event for the continent and its tourism sector.


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