Saturday 31 October 2020 - 3:09:09 am

UAE affirms its commitment to support international efforts to encourage tourism & improve safety of travel experience


DUBAI, 8th October, 2020 (WAM) -- The UAE affirmed its commitment to support international efforts to encourage and facilitate the recovery of the tourism sector and enhance the safety of travel experiences while adhering to global recommendations on the COVID-19 response, during its participation in a virtual G20 Tourism Ministers Meeting.

The country made this statement while participating in a remote meeting of G20 Ministers of Tourism, represented by Dr. Ahmed Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, SMEs.

The G20 Tourism Ministers, met under Saudi Arabia’s G20 Presidency, to address the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic; promote recovery of the travel and tourism sector and realise its potential to drive faster economic recovery post health crisis; maximise the sector's contribution to inclusive and sustainable development; and further develop the sector as a key and resilient industry, contributing to the global economy and generating decent work.

During the meeting, Dr. Al Falasi said that in light of the unprecedented circumstances that the world is currently navigating, there are many transformations and changes that have occurred not only within the tourism sector, but across various aspects of daily lives and behaviors of billions of people around the world.

He added: "We, in the UAE, believe that there is an opportunity generated along with every challenge, and that the exposure to shocks makes us stronger and resilient in the face of future crises. Therefore, we are confident that the tourism sector, although it is the most affected by the pandemic, will emerge stronger, faster and more resilient."

Tourism is one of the main drivers of the overall development of society, as it contributes to diversifying and preserving natural and cultural resources, he continued. The travel and tourism sector accounted for up to 10.3 percent of global GDP and 330 million jobs (direct and indirect) in 2019. He further emphasised the importance of the ongoing efforts in developing a more sustainable tourism sector and studying new opportunities to restore its activities while adhering to the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines at the same time.

Furthermore, he added that support policies and incentives for tourism and travel companies and airlines are still necessary to ensure their ability to maintain operations, along with continuing efforts to facilitate safe, smooth and sustainable travel experiences as these are major steps towards recovery. Besides, advanced technology and digital transformation play a significant role in accelerating recovery and enabling the continuity of the sector.

He also reviewed the UAE’s experience in dealing with the challenges imposed by the global crisis on the sector during the meeting. The UAE is one of the first countries in the region to launch incentives and facilities to support the sector, highlighting the country’s ability to adapt quickly thanks to an advanced technological and digital infrastructure. Today, these capabilities contribute to safer and seamless travel experiences in and out of the UAE, he added.

Al Falasi concluded by saying that the UAE is continuing its efforts to develop initiatives that drive tourism innovation and enable the contribution of start-ups and innovation centers in finding quality solutions to overcome the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

The ministers highlighted the crucial role of tourism as a means of sustainable socio-economic development. The sector accounted for 28 percent of the world’s service exports in 2019, and it generates a greater impact on domestic economies than overall exports. The sector also has a workforce comprised of 54 percent women, compared to 39 percent in the broader global economy.

''We stress that the travel and tourism sector is one of the most heavily impacted sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic, with an anticipated 60-80 percent decline in international tourism in 2020. We recognise that COVID-19 may result in a paradigm shift for the travel and tourism sector,'' said the ministers in a joint communique at the end of the meeting.

''We will continue promoting efforts by both the public and private sectors to facilitate travel and support initiatives such as those which streamline travel and visa processes, and improve safety and security, recognising the sovereign right of States to control the entry of foreign nationals,'' they stressed.

''We acknowledge that the pandemic has created challenges and opportunities in crisis management in the travel and tourism sector. In order to improve response capabilities to uncertain and volatile crises and rebuild the trust of travellers, we commit to continue sharing knowledge, experiences, and good practices in each phase as follows: (i) prevention and preparedness, (ii) response, and (iii) recovery; and recognise the importance of efficient crisis communications during the sector’s response to and recovery from the pandemic,'' they added.

WAM/MOHD AAMIR/Tariq alfaham