Attendees at the launch of the eThekwini Tourism BR&E Programme on 14 April 2021 had the honour of listening to guest speaker, Dr Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of the World Tourism Forum Institute. Speaking from Amman, Jordan, Rifai shared his views on how to resuscitate tourism across the globe.

Global co-operation

The tourism industry – and by inference, governments – must reach consensus on the minimum travel requirements that will make people comfortable and inspire them to travel again. “What we need is a new multilateral system, a more harmonised, fair and equitable system. It is not important how successful every country is on its own if one cannot travel from one place to another,” said Rifai.

He went on to explain that we cannot have one country insisting on quarantine, while its neighbour demands a vaccination passport, and a third simply requires a 72-hour testing period before arrival or at entry points.

Local is lekker

The health pandemic has proven the case for domestic tourism. “There is opportunity that comes out of every crisis. The prime winner from this crisis is domestic and regional tourism,” said Rifai. “While domestic travel does not bring in hard currency or contribute to the balance of trade, it helps keep businesses and jobs alive.”

Domestic tourism also has the added benefit of allowing locals and residents to experience and enjoy their own country, which leads to greater enthusiasm, wonder and awe of the sector which is easily transferred to visitors.

Innovate. Innovate. Innovate.

The tourism sector is not renowned for innovation, but this has to change. As Rifai noted: “We were able to put a man on the moon before we were able to put wheels on a suitcase.”  Digital technology must be used to facilitate health and safety, which will garner trust and support. Digital nomads will lead the return to tourism; the sector must be ready to entice and welcome this market.

The overwhelming takeout from Rifai is that the tourism sector must come together to emerge stronger. “Today, we will not bounce back but will leap forward into a new world, a new norm. A better and more sustainable world.”

First published on 4 May 2021 here.