July 30, 2023 -Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, underlined the urgent need for united efforts to fortify the global tourism sector during her recent address at the United Nations World Tourism Organization Regional Commission for Africa meeting.
Held on July 26, 2023, in Mauritius, the meeting drew senior officials from across Africa and beyond to discuss the post-COVID recovery of the industry.
Recovery from the pandemic’s impact on global tourism
With tourism worldwide making strides towards recovery after the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary-General Scotland called attention to the industry’s ongoing vulnerabilities.
In 2020, the pandemic led to an unprecedented dip in international tourism, with a staggering 1.1 billion fewer arrivals and over 100 million jobs lost globally.
Speaking to an audience that included Mauritius’ Prime Minister, Pravind Jugnauth, and several African tourism ministers, Scotland warned of the multiple crises threatening the industry’s recovery, which has only achieved nearly two-thirds of its pre-pandemic levels.
Emphasizing the specific plight of small island developing states (SIDS), which rely heavily on tourism, she pointed out their GDP contracted by 9 per cent in 2020, a rate more than double the global average.
With two-thirds of these states part of the Commonwealth, Scotland pledged to prioritize sustainable tourism within the organization’s agenda.
The urgency of collective action in tourism sector
She urged the meeting’s delegates to join forces to create an “inclusive, sustainable, and resilient” tourism sector.
Highlighting the meeting as a pivotal juncture, she advocated for collective action in formulating innovative legal and financial solutions, noting that the necessary knowledge and technologies already exist.
Scotland expressed optimism in the leadership of Commonwealth Africa to spearhead sustainable and resilient tourism industry initiatives. In support of these efforts, she outlined the Commonwealth’s role in aiding countries through knowledge sharing, data exchange, and capacity building.
Commonwealth’s innovative tools for sustainable tourism
She made specific reference to the Commonwealth’s ‘Their Future, Our Action’ project, which has been contributing to the economic resilience of small states. She cited two instruments developed by the project that could prove beneficial to African nations.
These include the ‘Common Pool Asset Structuring Strategy’, which merges individual financial applications into country-wide possibilities, and the Political-Economic Resilience Index, which provides reliable data on small states’ economic and vulnerability levels, thereby increasing their appeal to investors.
Scotland further noted that the Commonwealth is actively advocating for reforms in global financing rules to make development and climate finance more accessible to smaller states. This would allow them to invest more in sustainable development, climate action, and fortifying tourism resilience.
At the event’s inaugural ceremony, Prime Minister Jugnauth echoed Scotland’s sentiments, emphasizing the need for a collective approach to overcome the challenges facing the recovering global tourism industry.
Under the theme ‘Rethinking Tourism in Africa’, the Regional Meeting served as a valuable forum for ministers and senior officials across Africa to exchange ideas and best practices for constructing a robust tourism sector.