Home Resilience Egypt, Saudi and UAE to host UN digital tourism programme

Egypt, Saudi and UAE to host UN digital tourism programme

Grounded...? With the pandemic having decimated global travel, the UNWTO’s online ‘Acceleration Programme’ aims to encourage innovation and the use of digital tools for ‘better tourism planning’ | Credit: Jan Vašek; Pixabay

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are preparing to host the next leg of a global initiative to encourage digitalisation within tourism as the coronavirus pandemic continues to decimate global travel.

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) online ‘Acceleration Programme’ is targeted at the UN agency’s member states’ tourism ministries, tourism boards and travel associations.

The Madrid-headquartered organisation has teamed up with US-headquartered social media company Google to run the programme, which aims to encourage innovation and the use of digital tools for ‘better tourism planning’.

The initiative’s first session was hosted (virtually) by South Africa on 23 September and the three-host Egypt-Saudi-UAE session will take place (virtually) on 24 November.

UNWTO data, released a fortnight ago, showed a 70 per cent fall in international arrivals for the first eight months of 2020. According to the UNWTO’s ‘World Tourism Barometer’, international arrivals collapsed by 81% in July and 79% in August, traditionally the two busiest months of the year and the peak of the Northern Hemisphere summer season.

Technology’s potential to ‘foster new and better jobs’

The programme’s kick-off session on 23 September focused on insights from the host country, as well as Nigeria and Kenya.

“UNWTO is committed to helping Africa grow back stronger,” the organisation’s director of innovation, digital transformation and investments, Natalia Bayona, said. “With the right policies, training and management in place, innovation and technology have the potential to foster new and better jobs and business opportunities for tourism in Africa while improving the overall wellbeing and prosperity of the region.”

“Market intelligence and insights are more important than ever to understand consumers and drive recovery. In line with the ongoing UNWTO training programme on data and intelligence for Africa, this partnership allows UNWTO to strengthen Africa’s data and digital skills,” added the UNWTO’s chief of market intelligence and competitiveness, Sandra Carvao.

The session also included a presentation of the ‘UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker’, an ‘insights dashboard’ on tourism indicators. The tool, available for free, is a collaborative effort by a group of partners including the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

‘Urgent need to safely restart tourism’

Commenting on the UNWTO’s latest traveller data, the organisation’s secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili said: “This unprecedented decline is having dramatic social and economic consequences, and puts millions of jobs and businesses at risk. This underlines the urgent need to safely restart tourism, in a timely and co-ordinated manner”.

The UNWTO announced last month that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with US-headquartered online travel company Expedia Group that will see the two organisations collaborate on a range of topics. Specifically, the partnership includes the sharing of data on tourism trends and developments that, the UNWTO said, ‘will help inform decision-making, producing data-based policies aimed at tourism’s sustainable recovery and future development.



WEBINAR: ‘Time to check in: protecting and rebuilding the tourism economy’


On Thursday 19 November, Global Government Fintech and our sister title Global Government Forum are hosting a webinar, supported by Mastercard as knowledge partner, on the tourism economy.
Our panel, including the UNWTO’s Natalia Bayona, will discuss: the challenges faced by the tourism industry; the areas in which public and private sector collaboration can mitigate the impact of the pandemic; and how governments can harness technology to accelerate recovery.
For details on the webinar, which starts at 12.30 UK-time, click here.