G20 pledges support to virus-hit tourism sector

The G20 tourism ministers have agreed to work together and explore capacity building programmes to revive the sector

An aerial picture shows deserted streets in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, on April 21, 2020, during the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis. / AFP / BANDAR ALDANDANI
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Tourism ministers of the world’s 20 largest industrialised nations have pledged to support the tourism sector, one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic

The G20 policymakers have also agreed to explore measures such as capacity building programmes to revive the industry, a vital component of the global economy, where million of jobs are at risk.

“We commit to working together to provide support to the sector and welcome the [individual] national efforts to mitigate the social and economic impacts of the pandemic by G20 countries,” the ministers said in a joint statement late on Friday following their virtual meeting.

“We [also] welcome the G20 Action Plan adopted by the finance ministers and central bank governors in response to the crisis, which includes measures to maintain businesses and support households most impacted by the crisis [and] safeguard employment.”

The travel and tourism sector accounts for 10.3 per cent  of global gross domestic product. Preliminary estimates from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development indicate a 45 per cent decline in international tourism so far in 2020. This could rise to 70 per cent if recovery efforts are delayed until September, according to the statement.

"To support economic recovery, we commit to ensuring a safe travel environment that helps rebuild consumer confidence in the sector, by strengthening regional and international coordination,” it said.

“We commit to helping tourism sector businesses, especially micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, entrepreneurs, and workers to adapt and thrive in a new post-crisis era, for example by fostering innovation and digital technologies that enable sustainable practices and seamless travel.”

The World Travel & Tourism Council last month said up to 75 million jobs are at risk in travel and tourism sector as the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the globe.

Tourism ministers also pledged to support developing economies that rely on travel and tourism, especially in Africa and small island states. Aim is to build a "more inclusive, robust, and resilient” tourism sector in the post-coronavirus world, the ministers said.

The call for action by tourism ministers follows the G20 leaders' meeting on March 26 in which they presented a united front and committed to inject $5 trillion (Dh18.4tn) into the world economy to mitigate the economic fallout of the pandemic. The G20 leadership pledged to do whatever it takes to revive the global economy in the meeting chaired by King Salman of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom currently holds rotating presidency of the G20.

Earlier this month, financial policymakers from the bloc agreed to suspend debt repayments from the world's poorest countries, giving them headroom to dedicate cash to fight the coronavirus.

Both principal repayments and interest payments will be suspended from May 1 until the end of the year, the G20 said in a joint statement earlier this month. They also asked private creditors to join the initiative "on comparable terms".

Trade and investment ministers of the group are also taking steps to blunt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global logistics operations.

The outbreak that began in China last year has infected more than 2.8 million worldwide and killed over 197,000. The tourism sector has come to grinding halt as demand for travel dried up. The pandemic has also pushed the global economy into the deepest recessions since the 1930s Great Depression, with the growth and set to contract by 3 per cent in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Global airlines are expected to lose $314 billion in passenger revenue this year, a 55 per cent drop from 2019, as the rapid spread of the virus and ensuing travel bans continue to hurt the industry, the International Air Transport Association said on April 14.