Ukraine war, inflation affects tourism industry, says UNWTO Secretary General

The ongoing war in Ukraine and inflation are affecting the tourism industry, which is recovering from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) , Zurab Pololikashvili.

Another major factor impacting the industry is that some Asian countries like China are still “closed”, he said.

“The Chinese market is very important for the industry… China until today is totally closed… It’s a big shame for them and for the rest of the world,” he said. .

“Rising prices have had an impact on the cost of hotel and transportation and the current problems are people’s inability to spend easily and the war. The war has changed the structure of international visitors… Russia itself is quite a large market, especially for Europe.

“As you know, Russians have a lot of residential properties in Europe and that has affected the European market a lot,” he said here earlier this week.

Pololikashvili was here for the signing of an agreement with the Grande Ecole Hôtelière Les Roches to promote innovation and technological incorporation in the tourism and hospitality sectors around the world.

“India is again of course a big market, for inbound and outbound travellers. India is an active member of our organization… We need more European schools there. is really important to invest in people, to invest in tourism and (hospitality) education in particular,” he said.

As part of this merger, Les Roches will train tourism and hospitality talent from more than 100 countries on its campuses in Switzerland and Spain.

“We all know that (the pandemic) has been the toughest and toughest year for the industry. Everything has been shut down and we’re talking about a 75/80% drop in international passenger numbers… hundreds of millions of jobs are still at risk, but we’ve seen this year that it has the ability to recover very quickly,” he said.

The Secretary General said the tourism sector had changed a lot after the pandemic.

“People now prefer to travel less but stay longer. The age (profile) of tourists has changed a lot. Young people are traveling a lot and domestic tourism is increasingly booming…during Covid, tourists first started traveling inside because it was not possible to travel outside,” he said.

During the pandemic, technology has provided many creative solutions to the industry. Innovation and digital platforms are now very important for the sector, he said and underlined the need for more quality hotel education institutes such as Les Roches.

Pololikashvili, however, allayed fears that technology could reduce jobs in the sector.

“Tourism is one of the industries where there is and always will be space and room for workers, physical workers, I mean… I absolutely agree that the environment technological decreases the number of manpower, but again, the technological part needs physical employees to do it. It is created by people, so they move from one office to another”, did he declare.

There is also a big labor shortage, especially in Europe, he said. “Especially, because of Covid, many immigrants have left their place of work and (have) great difficulty in coming back… And that’s why we need more prepared (trained) people”.

“Working in the tourism sector is now prestigious. I remember 10 or 15 years ago being a chef was not prestigious at all, but today they make much more money than CEOs or CFOs of small and medium-sized enterprises. For this reason, we started to attract young people,” said Pololikashvili.

UNWTO is the United Nations agency responsible for promoting responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.

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