Tourism ‘intrinsically susceptible’ to climate shocks, political unrest, pandemic threat — Global Issues


Addressing a high-level meeting on tourism as part of the General Assembly’s first ever Sustainability Week, Dennis Francis said it was a vital driver of economic growth and empowerment.

In 2023, the sector contributed three per cent to the global gross domestic product (GDP), amounting to $3.3 trillion, and employed one in every ten people worldwide. For countries in special situations, like small island nations, tourism accounted for nearly 35 per cent of all export earnings and up to 80 per cent of national exports.

“Despite the spectacular benefits reaped across its vast supply chains – tourism is also intrinsically susceptible to a host of disruptive forces – such as climate change, pandemics, acts of terrorism, and domestic political instability,” Mr. Francis said.


He expressed concerns about the sector’s environmental and carbon footprint, saying sustainability must be paramount.

“We need a global tourism sector that is sustainable – one with deep local value chains that expand demand for locally made products and services in ways that also directly and positively benefit local communities,” he urged.

Moreover, he emphasized that the sector should also leverage digital technology to foster innovation and expand opportunities for jobs and economic growth, especially for women, youth, and indigenous and local communities.


“We also need a global tourism sector that is resilient,” said Mr. Francis, stressing the need to minimize its vulnerabilities and bolstering its ability to withstand external shocks.

This includes designing infrastructures that can withstand environmental disasters, fostering innovations that enhance economic and social resilience, and diversifying tourism activities to reduce recovery time after disruptive events.

Symbol of hope

Zurab Pololikashvili, head of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), also spoke at the General Assembly, noting that despite today’s pressing challenges, tourism offered a glimmer of hope.

Reflecting on the sector’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic – its most significant crisis in history – he observed that in 2023, international arrivals rebounded to almost 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, with full recovery expected by the end of 2024.

This recovery must serve as a catalyst for bold action and transformative change, he said, emphasizing, “tourism can – and must – be a part of this plan for a better future for all.”

Sustainability Week

The high-level event on tourism followed Monday’s deliberations on debt sustainability, where speakers outlined the crippling impact of debt on developing economies, and called for urgent reform of the global financial system.

Upcoming highlights of the week include dedicated discussions on sustainable transport, infrastructure and energy.

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