Global tourism will only recover if countries work together, says Taleb Rifai
The global travel industry will only return to a new normal when the whole world is ready to travel under a unified system. This is according to the former Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organisation, Taleb Rifai.
He was speaking at eThekwini Municipality’s Tourism Business Retention and Expansion webinar hosted by Tourism Investment Africa.
“Countries will have to work together if tourism is to recover – one country cannot insist on quarantine while its neighbour demands a vaccination passport and a third simply requires testing 72 hours before arrival or at entry points,” Rifai said.
Rifai added that travelling was about connecting everybody everywhere. He said everyone needed to be vaccinated.
“We do not want to turn this into a political game of those who have and those that have not – we will all lose if we do so. No one would travel to a non-vaccinated destination, and no vaccinated destination would accept receiving anyone from a non-vaccinated destination.”
He said there needed to be a new multilateral system for countries.
“What we need a more harmonised, fair and equitable system. It’s not important how successful every country is on its own if one cannot travel from one place to another. Affordable testing may be more logical for a faster and more immediate recovery. The trick is not to do a perfect job on your own; it is to agree on minimum procedures.”
Rifai reiterated that there would be no coming back until people had peace of mind and trust, and confidence in one international system: “They are not going to travel simply because their governments say ‘you can now travel’.”
He said there were stages for recovery. The first was keep businesses alive, which requires direct support from governments or soft loans to ensure businesses have enough time to adjust to the new reality and survive.
Then concentrate on domestic and regional travel, which requires the private sector to adjust quickly to the new realities of such travellers and offer new deals. “Only then can governments stop the direct support.”
International travel that would start with young digital nomads and special travel insurance policies for foreigners with governments working together, said Rifai.
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