In an ever-changing scene of the tourism world, occasioned by the onset of COVID-19, which has affected global travel and tourism, the sector is experiencing its most radical evolution yet.
While this presents a myriad of uncertainties for businesses and livelihoods that are dependent on tourism and travel, the Director of Africa Department, UNWTO Elcia Grandcourt believes technology and innovation is needed to keep up with the dynamics.
“Innovation, technology and digitalization are an integral part of the evolution process of the tourism industry. The COVID-19 has sped up the urgency to integrate digital technology into the tourism and travel industry to reimagine businesses and destinations, design innovative tourism experiences, create or modify existing business operating processes so as to adapt to the new conditions and features of the global context,” she said at the just-ended Africa Youth in Tourism Innovation Summit and Challenge in Accra, Ghana.
She added that UNWTO Agenda for Africa – Tourism for Inclusive Growth places sustainable development, innovation, technology as well as youth and women empowerment as core priorities to be achieved for the advancement and progress of the sector within the continent.
Tourism and Rural Tourism
The outbreak of COVID-19, Ms. Grandcourt said, has deeply transformed the international context bringing an abrupt stop and decline of the world´s economic growth, with unparalleled consequences and unprecedented effects, especially on the tourism and travel industry.
She stated: “The sector has been most affected due to the travel restrictions and the closure of borders that countries had to introduce to counter the negative effects of the pandemic.
“However, alongside the challenges of recovery posed by the global health and economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has also provided the tourism sector with the unique chance to reflect on traditional and profit-oriented models and on unsustainable practices and to move towards the adoption of more respectful, socially inclusive and responsible paradigms of development.”
Against this backdrop, Ms. Grandcourt posited that the role of tourism in rural development is more relevant than ever, offering important opportunities for recovery which might enhance the attractiveness and the vitality of rural areas by celebrating the values of the territory and preserving both tangible and intangible heritage.
“Tourism deems key for the economic, social and environmental revitalization of rural areas and for the empowerment of traditionally disadvantaged groups within local communities, namely women, youth and indigenous people,” she maintained.
UNWTO Best Tourism Villages Initiative
The UNWTO Best Tourism Villages initiative has been launched recently in order to look for the best examples of rural villages worldwide harnessing the power of tourism to provide opportunities and safeguard their communities, local traditions and heritage. The challenge aims to identify villages taking innovative and transformative approaches to tourism in rural areas in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to maximise the contribution of the sector to reducing regional inequalities and fighting against rural depopulation.
The deadline for submission of entries for the Challenge, Elcia revealed, has been extended to August 31, 2021.
Story by: Samuel Obeng Appah