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UNWTO 2021: A year in review

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2021: Tourism united, relisient and determined.

2021 has been a year of learning and adapting for tourism. It has proven that only by working together can the sector overcome challenges and embrace opportunities.

Gathering the global tourism community and developing concrete actions, UNWTO has led tourism’s response with the vision of not only restarting, but doing so in a more inclusive, innovative and sustainable way.

January - March
As global tourism faced up to a second year of unprecedented crisis, UNWTO began 2021 by counting the cost so far. At the same time, however, the emergence of vaccines brought hope. The Global Tourism Crisis Committee met to explore what this meant for safe travel and the restart of tourism, while the announcement of the winners of the UNWTO Global Start-up Competition recognized the role culture and creativity will play in tourism’s restart and recovery.  

April - June
Collaboration and innovation were the focusat the start of the second quarter. UNWTO partnered with IATA on a new Destination Tracker to give both tourists and destinations clear, impartial and trusted advice. And a new Start-up Competition was launched to find the best ideas for accelerating rural development through tourism. In May, the launch of the Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO generated significant interest from Members in every global region. 

July - September
As destinations in Europe welcomed tourists back for the peak summer season, UNWTO highlighted the role of digital solutions for the safe restart of the sector. But UNWTO also looked ahead, to a more sustainable future, working with key partners to reduce plastic waste and consumption across every part of the sector. Together, we celebrated World Tourism Day around the theme of Tourism for Inclusive Growth, a message of solidarity and determination that was echoed on a global scale.

October - December
The final quarter of 2021 began with cautious optimism as UNWTO’s Barometer showed signs of improvement in tourist arrival numbers during the summer season in the northern hemisphere. A new partnership with Netflix will bring the message of tourism as a driver of opportunity to a massive global audience, while in November, UNWTO was tourism’s voice at COP26 and signatories to the landmark Glasgow Declaration keep growing. Finally, against the backdrop of the UNWTO General Assembly, the programme of work for the coming biennium was approved and 77% of Members voted to secure a second mandate for the Secretary-General from 2022-2025.

Growing and moving forward
UNWTO brings together political leaders from across the globe to deliver a strong, coordinated response. Governments, destinations, fellow UN agencies and international organizations met at key international events joining efforts to rethink tourism. Institutional coordination has proven crucial to find the solutions that build a smarter, greener and safer tourism.

Leaving nobody behind
The pledge to ‘leave nobody behind’ means nobody should miss out: Not now as we support the sector in the face of crisis, and not in the future as tourism starts again. Tourism is a proven driver of equality and opportunity. And that’s why we turn words into actions, delivering guidelines and action plans, to ensure everyone can enjoy the opportunities tourism brings.

A shared vision
Advancing the transformation of the tourism sector, partnerships are the only way forward. In 2021, UNWTO signed agreements with international organizations and the private sector to step our vision for the future of tourism: innovation, education, sustainability, green investment, rural development.

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