Winning international support for tourism

Manuel Butler Halter, executive director of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, discusses how the agency has been helping to protect the cruise and tourism industries during the Covid-19 pandemic

Winning international support for tourism
The UNWTO has been working to win support for the tourism industry during the pandemic, says Manuel Butler Halter

How has the UNWTO helped the cruise industry to face the Covid-19 pandemic? 

The UNWTO has been working with every part of the tourism sector, including the cruise tourism industry, to respond to the impacts of the pandemic. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and UNWTO signed a joint statement to support the safe resumption of cruise ship operations following the Covid-19 pandemic. The IMO and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) are active players of the UNWTO Global Tourism Crisis Committee, a cross-sector group of leaders we established. Our joint efforts have won unprecedented political and economic support for tourism, including the cruise industry, ensuring governments recognise our sector’s vital importance not just to economies but to almost every part of our societies.  

What further action, either by the industry, national governments, or international organisations, need to be carried out to protect the tourist industry? 

This crisis is far from over and tourism continues to need high-level support, both from governments and from international organisations. Without this, many millions of livelihoods and businesses, from large cruise operators to the small shops and restaurants that rely on cruise passengers, are at risk. Furthermore, governments also need to act to restart tourism in a responsible way as soon as it is safe to do so. Harmonised rules and protocols will help restore confidence in international travel, a precursor towards the sector’s restart and recovery.  

What are some of the measures that the cruise industry needs to take to become more sustainable into the future? 

Prior to the start of this crisis, global tourism had been making good progress in meeting its sustainability commitments. The cruise tourism sector has been actively involved in our One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme, and the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, launched at COP25 UN climate talks and aimed at reducing waste in the sector. The temporary pause in international travel offers us a unique opportunity to rethink and then restart tourism, accelerating the progress we had been making and putting sustainability at the heart of everything we do.

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Alex Smith
By Alex Smith
15 April 2021

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