The travel and tourism industry is one of the largest and most dynamic industries in today’s global economy expected to generate about 9 per cent of total GDP and provide for more than 235 million jobs in 2010 representing 8 per cent of global employment.
According to an ILO report prepared for the Forum, international tourism was affected by the global economic and social crisis but is projected to grow significantly over the coming decade. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is expecting the sector‘s global economy to provide 296 million jobs by 2019.
The meeting will be opened by ILO Director-General Juan Somavia and the Secretary-General of UNWTO, Taleb Rifai.
“Tourism has the potential to become a major generator of jobs after the crisis”, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said before the meeting, adding that “social dialogue between governments, employers and workers can ensure that the jobs generated will be decent. Such dialogue is particularly important for a service industry like tourism, where success depends so much on service quality, which, in turn, goes hand in hand with a skilled and motivated workforce”.
The tourism sector suffered a decline that began in the second half of 2008 and intensified in 2009 after several consecutive years of growth. A sharp reduction in tourist flows, length of stay, tourist spending and increased restrictions on business travel expenses led to a significant contraction of economic activity in the sector worldwide.
Among the most affected during the crisis were international tourist arrivals, decreasing by 4 per cent in 2009, while international tourism revenues were projected to go down 6 per cent by the end of 2009. The regions hit hardest by the decline in worldwide international tourism were the Middle East (-4.9 per cent), Europe (-5.7 per cent), and the Americas (-4.6 per cent). Only Africa showed constant growth (+2.9 per cent), based on a comparatively low travel volume.
Despite the crisis, global employment in the tourism industry increased by about 1 per cent between 2008 and 2009, the report says. The report shows, however, significant regional differences with respect to the crisis impact on employment in hotels and restaurants. While the Americas suffered a 1.7 per cent decrease in employment, employment in Asia and the Pacific region remained resilient and gained 4.6 per cent.
What’s more, in many countries the global recession resulted in reduced working hours in order to cut costs and reduce the number of lay-offs.
On the second day of the Forum, a panel will take place to promote new ideas concerning the huge potential for social dialogue in the sector and sustainable forms of tourism with a strong poverty reduction potential. The panel will address good practices in this respect that could be shared with other developing countries, particularly within the framework of South-South development cooperation.
“Fortunately the sector is in a position where it can take advantage of the crisis as an opportunity to implement proactive measures to overcome the lack of social dialogue and skills development within the sector”, explains Elizabeth Tinoco, Director of the ILO’s Sectoral Activities Department. “A sustainable tourism industry can provide key answers to the problems raised at the recent G 20 meeting in Seoul, including private sector-led growth and job creation, social protection, decent work and growth in the least developed countries, poverty, lack of training and skills, ecologically sound development and social protection”, she concludes.