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Dubai has mandated a well-defined set of safety protocols for hotels to follow amid the pandemic Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai has received top global recognition for keeping tourists and tourism workers safe, Gulf News can reveal.

In an exclusive interview ahead of the Pre-Expo Talk: Travel & Connectivity in Dubai on Tuesday, Marcelo Risi, chief of the Communications Department of World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), said, “Dubai deserves recognition for pro-actively working to keep both tourists and tourist workers as safe as possible. It is also an example of good cooperation between government and business. Such co-operation is more essential than ever, and UNWTO is pleased to see Dubai and many other destinations around the world promoting collaboration and solidarity to support our sector and restart tourism.”

Marcelo Risi, chief of the Communications Department of World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Image Credit: Supplied

“And these two are closely interlinked. Safe international travel is possible. However, we still need to rebuild confidence in travel to restart tourism. We can do this by leading by example and by ensuring that health and safety protocols are harmonised across the sector and across borders. Alongside this, many millions of jobs and businesses are at risk and so tourism as a sector continues to need the strongest political support possible. The tourism sector is ready to restart as soon as conditions allow, but these will depend on both health management and international co-ordination and standards - again, flying solo leads nowhere,” he noted

He said the UNWTO Secretary-General particularly congratulates Dubai on hosting EXPO 2020 even in such times of uncertainty. “This sends a strong message of determination. I am also encouraged that the key themes of this Expo are collaboration and innovation, with sustainability as a cross-cutting axis, in synch with what UNWTO promotes and reinforcing the overall position of the United Nations. This is essential if we are to not only restart but to re-think tourism and the many and varied benefits it can deliver, going beyond tourism itself.

“We will do our part to rebuild with more economic and social resilience, that means not just growing, but growing better. And I believe this lies at the heart of Expo in general and is today more important than ever,” he added.

Tourists must act responsibly

According to Risi, “Everybody has a part to play in keeping infections down and working to end the pandemic. Tourism does not turn its back to reality. Throughout this unprecedented period, we have witnessed how this sector mirrors what happens in our societies to an extent that many where not aware of – all of our social interaction, the huge economic value chain it envelopes, deep social footprint, and tourism’s vast ramifications woven into our communi-ties.”

He said UNWTO has always stressed that tourists actively follow the latest health guidelines, both from the World Health Organisation and from their own governments. “These are the only credible authorities when establishing safety. They also need to stick closely to the rules and protocols that have been introduced at every step of the tourist journey. As a sector, tourism has led the way in adapting to the new reality, but this is dependent on tourists them-selves acting responsibly,” he noted.

Relevance of tourism

Risi said the breadth and diversity of the tourism value chain is what makes the sector a driver of sustainable development the world over. “Tourism creates jobs and promotes eco-nomic growth. And tourism delivers best when managed in harmony with people and planet. Indeed, the current absence of tourism shows how important and relevant the sector is and how it touches on almost every part of our societies – from hospitality and leisure through to arts and culture as well as economic wellbeing. It is for this reason that tourism is a contributor to many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the sector has a seat at the United Nations, where UNWTO speaks on its behalf.”

UNWTO role in reviving tourism amid COVID-19

Risi said the revival of tourism lay in a united combat. “From the start, we recognised the importance of the tourism sector facing this challenge united rather than each country, desti-nation or industry looking after their own interests. Together we are stronger, as we say. We are the one-stop-shop for tourism intelligence, data and monitoring of policies around the world, important tools and trusted sources of information for the sector, governments and international organisations.”

He said, “At the very beginning of the crisis, we established the UNWTO Global Tourism Crisis Committee. This is made up of our member states, as well as international organisations – in-cluding some of our sister UN agencies such as WHO, the IMO and ICAO – as well as business-es and other sector leaders, such as IATA. We also count on the active involvement of organi-sations like the OCDE or the World Bank, and the European Commission has also been in-volved at the highest level. This way, when calling on governments for strong economic and political support for tourism, we could speak with one voice.”

Risi said the committee is still active and advancing solutions, ranging from guidelines to re-start tourism and technical recommendations, to the creation of an International Code for the Protection of Tourists, and bringing the sector together to ensure health protocols and pro-posed rules relating to travel in the era of vaccines are “clear, consistent and harmonised”.