Tourism Ministers from APEC member economies are coordinating their policies to revive the tourism and travel industry in the region so that it is safe, sustainable, responsible and more inclusive.
According to World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the travel and tourism industry contributed to almost 11 percent to the total employment in the region by providing around 162 million jobs in 2019. This number dipped during the height of the pandemic, accounting for just 131 million jobs in 2020 and 138.7 million jobs in 2021.
“The havoc wreaked by COVID-19 in the past two years is certainly unprecedented and has viciously impacted the lives of everyone,” said Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports. “This is especially true with the global tourism industry, which has been severely affected by the pandemic.”
“However, through the last couple of years, our relevant agencies have worked hard and are still, until today, working tirelessly to achieve a swift and healthy recovery as we believe that the lowest point of the economic crisis from the pandemic is now behind us,” Minister Phipat said in his opening remarks at the 11th APEC Tourism Ministerial Meeting held in Bangkok.
“It’s time for us to get back on track and move towards more positive territory,” he added.
Backed by an initial rebound in tourism and travel, Thailand expects to welcome 10 million international tourists this year, thus boosting its economy, as the sector contributes to around 20 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).
Minister Phiphat further explained that those making the effort of reopening and reviving the tourism and travel industry need to take into consideration its impact on the local destination and communities.
“Our utmost priority is to transform the tourism sector so that it gives back more than it takes, this is the core of our meeting today, as well as our deliverables,” Minister Phiphat said.
Ministers are considering a series of policy recommendations to ensure that the benefits of tourism are distributed fairly among local communities, which will elevate their wellbeing and quality of life.
These include policies to facilitate tourism journeys that are sustainable and inclusive from end to end, and respectful of local and traditional knowledge; gender-responsive policies to ensure women’s full and equal participation in the tourism sector; and the adoption of technology to help manage all aspects of tourism, such as streamlining visa mechanisms.
“Key to our work this year has been to ensure the safe resumption of travel,” said Dr Rebecca Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat.
“Even as the pandemic eases into endemic status, the work undertaken by APEC will serve as an important guide for preparedness,” Dr Sta Maria explained. “The exchange of information, work towards interoperability of vaccine certificates and initiatives and proposals to facilitate the movement of people across borders in the Asia-Pacific region will stay with us.”
“If there’s one thing we have all learnt from the pandemic, it is that tourism is key to the economic growth of our region. So facilitating the safe resumption of cross-border travel will continue to feature post-pandemic,” she concluded.