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World Tourism Day in the midst of Pandemic

KARACHI: Today (27th of Sept.) the world is observing Tourism Day despite the fact that the industry has suffered in all the countries due to 2020 Pandemic.
UN Secretary General António Guterres stated on the occasion: “In the 40 years since the very first World Tourism Day, much has changed. Demand for travel has soared. The world has opened up, allowing more people than ever to explore the globe and its different cultures. Today, tourism is firmly established in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an engine for advancing prosperity, protecting our planet and laying the foundations for peace and understanding among peoples. Many millions of people around the world rely on tourism for income, especially women and young people. People who might otherwise have been left behind have found decent work and the chance of a better life thanks to tourism’s unique potential.

“Tourism has suffered enormously during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 120 million jobs are at risk. The impacts could lead to the loss of between 1.5 and 2.8 per cent of the global GDP. This will particularly affect the most vulnerable countries, including Small Island Developing States, the Least Developed Countries and many African nations, where tourism can represent between 30 and 80 per cent of exports. As we look to recover from this profound crisis, the safe restart of tourism is essential, not least for rural development – the focus of this year’s World Tourism Day.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to transform the relationship of the tourism sector with people, nature, the climate and the economy. We must ensure a fair distribution of its benefits and advance the transition to a carbon-neutral and resilient tourism economy as well as providing opportunities for people, tourism can play an important role in preserving our unique and shared cultures and protecting the biodiversity and the ecosystems that sustain us. In this most challenging year, let us focus on tourism’s importance for people living in rural areas, so we can deliver on the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals to leave nobody behind.”

2020 has been bad for Pakistan’s tourism sector too. Due to the closure of means of transport, markets, hotels, restaurants etc, hundreds of thousands of people were rendered unemployed; economic activities remained suspended. Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan held: “Pakistan has diverse landscapes from mountains to sea along with a dynamic history… it has limitless potential for tourism which the world has yet to discover…Several new destinations have been explored for tourists in rural areas of the country which is expected to uplift the economic and social status of local population.” Meanwhile, with an aim of making Pakistan a favorite destination, PTDC has been transformed getting its employees acquainted with the cutting edge technology.

President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi maintained: “The (tourism) sector is not just a leading source of employment, particularly for different segments of rural society especially for youth and women but also provides opportunities for regional integration and socio-economic inclusion for the most remote areas…It is a matter of great satisfaction for me that the federal and provincial governments are taking collective measures for development of tourist sites and promotion of tourism and all these efforts will contribute in transforming the tourism industry to become a major sector of national economy in the near future.”

It is pertinent to mention here that for the first time in the history of World Tourism Day, the 2020 official celebration is being hosted by a group of countries and not a single UNWTO Member State. The cross-border cooperation of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and  Chile reflects the need for global solidarity and cooperation. UNWTO has designated 2020 as the Year of Tourism and Rural Development.  According to UNWTO 2020 is a chance to promote the potential of tourism to create jobs and opportunities. It can also advance inclusion and highlight the unique role tourism can play in preserving and promoting natural and cultural heritage and curbing urban migration. It is also hoped that with the opening of the activities tourists will attempt to minimize their ecological footprint and dispose of trash in an environmentally safe manner.

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M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.