World Tourism Day 2021: Fair and sustainable tourism for inclusive growth

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Each year on September 27, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a United Nations agency, celebrates World Tourism Day. This year’s motto “Tourism for Inclusive Growth” is all about balanced growth for a new form of tourism in the post-pandemic world. “Tourism can play a major part in overcoming disparities that have been massively aggravated by the pandemic with its fair and sustainable forms,” says Prof. Dr. Harald Pechlaner, Chair of Tourism at the KU.

The global pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the particular vulnerability of tourism. The massive restrictions on mobility have led to a shut-down of traveling and thus of any associated tourist services. According to the WTO it is, however, a peculiar characteristic of tourism to bring together different cultures and enable exceptional encounters in the context of hospitality. The WTO emphasizes that nobody must be left behind, as tourism restarts in the post-pandemic world.

“Traveling has fallen into disrepute during the height of the pandemic as it was associated with the spread of the coronavirus. Now, tourism with its newly gained freedom has the chance as well as the duty to motivate large parts of society to set out to new climes and to “restart” after the long months of taking pause. The standstill in travel has been an eye-opener to many. Not only has it highlighted the economic significance of the industry, but also the problem of dealing with mass tourism and the limits of spatial compatibility. The increasing shortage of skilled workers, bad working conditions and the low appreciation of tourism services is coming to light. According to Pechlaner, it was very clear, that the proportion of women in the accommodation and catering sector was especially large and that women were and are hit especially hard by the crisis as experience has shown us that it takes them longer to find their way back into employment.

More people are demanding for humans and nature alike to be treated with respect - a development which must necessarily lead to a rethinking of business models. In tourism, resilience means making business models fit for new crises without losing the ability to innovate. This requires a stronger focus on sustainability. According to Pechlaner, a new need for safety and for health, the increasing importance of nature & outdoors in travel motives, the blurring boundaries between work and leisure and the demand for credible and responsible travel packages are currently changing tourism in leaps and bounds: “The great challenge of tourism worldwide lies in taking responsibility when it comes to not so much demanding a quick return to old patterns and habits and thus traditional travel patterns, but to help identify the sometimes blatant economic and social grievances and inequalities and to call them by their proper name. The new standard comprehends more than profits - above all it is about appreciation and responsibility towards humanity and nature. And therefore it is “Tourism for Inclusive Growth”.”