At Madrid-Barajas Airport; the headquarters of the UNWTO are in Madrid. | Efe


The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which is based in Madrid, is to develop an international "code" for the protection of tourists and for promoting coordination between countries in order to establish standards that provide certainty for travellers.

Earlier this week, the UNWTO held its first face-to-face executive council meeting since the start of the pandemic and wanted to send out the message that if all preventive measures are followed, there can be travel. The delegates from 29 countries have therefore agreed on minimum standards that are needed for consumer protection in situations such as the current one.

The secretary general of the UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, says that there need to be standards for travel coordination in order to overcome the "chaotic" situation which existed during the first months of the pandemic. He believes that the second wave of infections will pass quickly and that by early next year the UNWTO will have a more accurate picture of how tourism will develop after the crisis.

Pololikashvili accepts that travel is at present mainly focused on a domestic model, which has its benefits for the development of rural tourism, something which - before the pandemic occurred - the UNWTO had set out to promote this year.

On the reactivation of tourism, the UNWTO secretary general explains that the organisation began its campaign in the Canary Islands in July and has carried out similar actions in the Balearics, all with the aim of giving hope to and providing positive messages for a sector which has suffered particularly badly.

He adds that it is necessary to coordinate different prevention measures between governments in order to eliminate uncertainties and to establish harmonised protocols to allow travel until the vaccine is discovered. Connectivity, he stresses, is the key, as 65% of international tourism involves air travel.

Current forecasts, he notes, range between a 58% and a 78% loss in terms of the number of international tourist arrivals in 2020. This broad range is indicative of the uncertainty, and the loss will ultimately depend on the duration of travel restrictions and when borders are reopened.

Pololikashvili suggests that the sector will not return to pre-pandemic growth levels for three to four years and that the crisis will have a particular impact on economies which depend heavily on tourism, such as Spain's. Experts at the UNWTO say that a recovery of international tourism will begin in the fourth quarter of this year and gather pace in 2021, although domestic demand will initially have greater dynamism.