Tourism for inclusive growth

By Kristine Grun

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EBRD marks World Tourism Day

Each year, on 27 September, World Tourism Day serves to highlight the importance of tourism for development, economic growth and cultural exchange.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic brought international travel to a sudden halt, tourism was considered to be one of the fastest-growing and most resilient economic sectors, with optimistic growth predictions for 2020. Indeed, in 2019, the travel and tourism sector contributed 10.4 per cent to global GDP and generated 7 per cent of total exports, with export revenues from international tourism surpassing US$ 1.7 trillion (see UNWTO Tourism Data Dashboard).

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, in 2019 the sector provided employment to more than 300 million people. This figure is due in part to the sector’s connectivity, which entails a large and diversified supply chain.

When the global pandemic hit, millions of jobs were lost and countries whose economic health relied on the tourism and hospitality sector faced the challenge of funding measures to combat the virus while losing much of their revenues. Forecasts suggest that by the end of 2021, the economic loss to global GDP will amount to more than US$4  trillion.

Covid-19 has also further exacerbated existing inequalities and created new ones for groups that already faced disproportionate barriers to economic opportunity before the crisis. The waves of unemployment caused by the pandemic may give rise to pockets of “stranded skills”, particularly in the regions and sectors – hospitality, retail services and tourism, for instance – that were most dependent on face-to-face interaction and, therefore, heavily affected by lockdown restrictions.

Young people and women have been particularly affected as they are more likely to work in non-standard employment. The achievement of the gender parity has been set back by a generation. It will only be possible to make a sustainable recovery, with a more just and equitable future for all, if these new inequalities are addressed along with the underlying ones that existed before the pandemic.

Today, international tourism is slowly recovering as governments ease restrictions on travel to an increasing number of countries. Against this backdrop, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), advocating for tourism to contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, designated this year’s World Tourism Day 2021 as an opportunity to focus on “Tourism for Inclusive Growth”. It reminds us of our common responsibility to build back better and promote responsible, sustainable and inclusive tourism in the EBRD regions.

A recovered tourism sector can serve as lever to promote social and economic inclusion. The EBRD is well placed to help ensure an inclusive recovery in the sector by combining investment with the promotion of market-relevant training, inclusive and gender-sensitive recruitment, employment and lifelong learning policies as well as dialogue with national authorities on skills policies.

This potential – and the need for tourism and hospitality sectors to contribute to inclusive growth – is also reflected in the EBRD’s Property and Tourism Sector Strategy 2020-24. Tourism projects can play an important role in reducing skills mismatches, enhancing access to skills and creating employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups, including youth and women.

In this regard, the EBRD supports training programmes to equip local youth with qualifications to help them transition into work in tourism. Projects focus on market-relevant skills, including green skills and digital skills but also sought-after culinary and hotel management talent. In addition, the EBRD works to reduce gender gaps in access to employment and services in the tourism sector through equal-opportunity initiatives and the design of gender-responsive infrastructure.

Besides young people and women, the EBRD supports the creation of training and work opportunities for people with disabilities and supports engagement at the community level in more remote regions. For instance, the Bank helped establish the Sector Skills Council for the tourism and hospitality sector in Jordan in 2018. This Council brings together the private and public sectors to promote the development of skills that are in demand from the tourism and hospitality industry.

Recently, the EBRD also provided a loan for the development of the new Hyatt West Cairo hotel in Egypt, a project which – besides opening up new employment opportunities – includes a technical cooperation element, supported by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs - SECO, focused on developing high quality training programmes and gender-sensitive recruitment practices.

Later this year, the EBRD will launch its new strategy for the promotion of gender equality and its strategy to equality of opportunity. With these strategies, the Bank aims to further scale up and expand its activities in promoting inclusion and equality in all EBRD economies and sectors, including tourism and hospitality.

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