Towards a Future Tourism Strategy: Ensuring a sustainable tourism that benefits people and the planet in the aftermath

Towards a Future Tourism Strategy: Ensuring a sustainable tourism that benefits people and the planet in the aftermath

After the pandemic our cities will never be the same again. COVID-19 has had a major impact on citizens and, above all, has deepened structural inequalities and has also called into question many of the certainties we had before the pandemic. As the UCLG Decalogue points out, the pandemic has shed light on the consumption model of many cities, and of delocalized and unsustainable production systems. In the world to come, both during and after the recovery, it will be essential to rebalance the relationship between economic growth, the environment and public priorities.

The #CitiesAreListening experience on the Future Tourism Strategy, hosted by UCLG and powered by the Union of Ibero American Capital Cities (UCCI), saw local and regional governments and their partners discuss the effects of the pandemic on the tourism sector, address the new meaning of tourism in the post-pandemic world, and identify priorities and needs for the development of the Ibero-American Strategy for Future Tourism (EIT) of UCCI and the Pact for the Future, which is part of UCLG's strategy towards the renewal of the social contract. Participants also addressed ways in which tourism can be a sustainable tool for economic recovery and an instrument of social cohesion and reinforcement of cultural rights to meet the needs of citizens.

The new tourism challenges and strategies identified at the session proved to be closely connected to the priorities of the UCLG Policy Council on “Safer, resilient and sustainable cities, capable of facing crises” in that it aimed at ensuring the transformation of a critical economic sector, face the challenges of the technological and ecological transition, and also addressed the need to boost the cultural dimension of building back better. Strong connections with the right to the city and the right to life were made as well in the session.

Dr. Mohamed Boudra, UCLG President and Mayor of Al-Hoceima, introduced the session arguing for the need to  rebalance the relationship between economic growth, the environment and public priorities through living patterns that respond to the needs of people. To do this, he argued, “ a more sustainable tourism model, which can at the same time be a generator of wealth and wellbeing for the territories that receive it”

Secretary General of the UCCI and Councillor of Tourism of Madrid Almudena Maíllo introduced the Iberoamerican Tourism Strategy and how it engages with the 2030 Agenda, linking the strategy with the goals on decent work, inclusion, and responsible production and consumption. "Together with public and private organisations and the civil society, we must face this challenge. The strategy for the future of tourism is a living document that we must be able to export to the world." 

Gathering experts and representatives from international institutions, the first panel asked them on how the future of tourism would look like. Pere Calvet, President of UITP, highlighted the importance of tourism as a pillar for the economic recovery, and how strengthening public transport in the aftermath could contribute to the recovery of the tourism industry in a sustainable manner.

Isabel Oliver Sagreras, Expert on Tourism and Biodiversity in the office of the Secretary General  of the UNWTO brought to the table the need to evaluate if tourism before the outbreak was the model that we needed, and to engage in rethinking tourism by rethinking, as well, our cities. Cities that care for their populations are the ideal destinations for tourism.

Closing the panel,  Jyoti Hosagrahar, Deputy Director of the World Heritage Centre, UNESCO argued that the pandemic had brought to light the importance of heritage in cities, and needs to act as a turning point. An inclusive and sustainable recovery, she said, needs to consider heritage and culture as integral elements.

The perspectives of a national government were shared by Jacqueline Mora-Baez, Vice Minister of Tourism of the Dominican Republic, who raised the importance of public-private collaboration to implement protocols that would ensure that the Dominican Republic is a safe destination for tourists, and how the national government worked together with cities to develop a project to enhance urban tourism in the country.

Karol Fajardo, Director of the District Tourism Institute, Bogotá, laid out the challenges that the city faced, but also how the pandemic offered different opportunities to readdress the quality of life that tourism brings. Tourism, she argued, needs to consider sustainability of the sector and the planet, and diversify its sources so as to be compatible with people’s lives.

Maria Paz Ramos, Undersecretary of Tourism of Lima, also argued that sustainability is key by highlighting that tourism is both an economic and human activity, and laid the importance of promoting safe and accessible public spaces that could bring communities and tourists together, by providing better quality of life for residents and opportunities for economic development.

 Regarding what the future of tourism needs to look like, Cristiano Beraldo, Secretary of Tourism of Rio de Janeiro called for touristic experiences that nobody else has. Being mindful of the economic importance of tourism, he stated, it is still critical to harness its potential to take care of communities to ensure the economic benefits reach all spheres.

The cities of Mexico and Havana took the floor in the open debate by stating their initiatives on safer tourism and how Mexico had been able to increase the percentage of international tourists in the latest months, and Havana arguing that they were developing a plan of habitational development to ensure a destination of peace and security

Secretary General of UCCI Almudena Maíllo  and Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG, shared final elements for reflection around the co-creation of a global tourism narrative aligned with the Pact for the Future, building on the momentum of the Ibero-American Strategy for Future Tourism of the Union of Ibero-American Cities. Emphasis was put on a more territorial perspective, including UCLG regional sections, and on new trends concerning wellbeing of citizens and tourists, connectivity, transport and sustainability, among others.