Balala holds talks with world tourism leaders on impact of Coronavirus

Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Hon. Najib Balala, on Thursday evening, held talks with the United Nations World Travel Organization (UNWTO) executive council and other global tourism leaders.

The meeting was aimed at coordinating the efforts of the tourism sector globally and collaborating in the light of the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

In a virtual meeting chaired by the UNWTO Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili, the leaders discussed the need to establish a joint action plan as a matter of priority.

Advocating for the message, “Stay Home Today and Travel Tomorrow,” the UNWTO Leaders meeting emphasized the need for all member states to put in all the initial efforts in ‘people first’ communication that takes cognizance of the safety of travelers and employees in the sector. This is in line with the rest of the world in rallying everyone towards preparedness and recovery measures for the industry in the days to come.

Speaking during the meeting from his office, CS Balala advocated for informative communication by all Governments to promote travel hygiene as the key effective measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that apart from creating awareness at this time, collaboration among all stakeholders would see tourism bouncing back to normalcy once the pandemic is contained.

“Addressing the multi-faceted impact of the pandemic demands an integrated approach across the world. When adequately supported with accurate and timely information, travel patterns will resume and tourism will rebound,” he said.

CS Balala also called for a mobilization by key members to contribute to ways of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 as they put in measures for a recovery plan.

“We must harmonize the travel and hospitality players. As destinations continue to put measures to handle the crisis, we need to factor in recovery plans by involving key institutions such as the banking industry”, the CS said.

Since the outbreak, Africa’s tourism industry is among the worst hit following the travel freeze from its major market sources across the world.

Hotels and other popular entertainment joints have continued to record low numbers and high cancelations as a result of COVID-19.

However, the hotels continue to put on measures on safety of their workforce and clients to curb the spread of the virus. The sector projected a job loss up to about 50 million and currently noted that about 70airlines were not in operation.

During the meeting, Zurab Pololikashvili, urged all the members to have a solutions-based approach, to remain resilient and make robust arrangements for business continuity amid the tough times. He also indicated that a COVID-19 tourism crisis committee will be formed in the next seven days, whose major focus will be on the supporting destinations with information and collaborate on a rescue package plan for tourism markets.

Among others who were present at the meeting include; a representative from the office of the Director General of the World Health Organization(WHO), Secretary General for International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO)Fang Liu, a representative from World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC),European Union Commissioner for Transport Ms. Adina Valean, Spain Minister for Tourism Ms. Reyes Moroto, Minister for Tourism in Saudi Arabia Mr. Ahmed Bin Aqil, Tourism Minister of the Maldives Mr. Ali Waheed, and Minister of Tourism and Arts of Zambia Mr. Ronald Chitotela. The key issues to address beyond the crisis will be opening of the borders, supporting the travel agencies, tour operators and suppliers to jump- start their businesses and leverage on the crisis to encourage collaboration.


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