Celebration of the World Day of tourism and cooperation of member states of SCO in the sphere of tourism

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By Vladmir Norov

The world day of tourism (World Tourism Day) was established by the General Assembly of World Tourism Organization, UNWTO (The World Tourism Organization, UNWTO) in 1979 in the city of Torremolinos, Spain.It is celebrated every year on September 27. This date was chosen because the Charter of the World Tourism Organization was adopted on this day in 1970.

The purpose of the holiday is to promote tourism, to highlight its contribution to the economy of the international community, and to develop ties between the people of the different countries. It is intended to draw the attention of the international community to the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, and economic value.

Itis aa holiday of everyone who has ever felt like a traveler, having got out of the everyday bustle. And, of course, it is a holiday of those who are directly engaged in the sphere of travel business – the staff of travel agencies, museum employees, heads and personnel of hotel complexes, and of all those who professionally provide a comfortable and safe stay of tourists.

Over the past half-century, tourism has become one of the fastest-growing and most important sectors of the economy in the world. And for some countries, tourism is even the main source of revenue for the state budget. The tourism sector accounts for 10% of Global GDP and has demonstrated resilience and growth in recent years. The technological advancements related to the tourism sector supplemented by the decrease in transportation fare have led to an increase in the number of international travelers.

Like any activity, tourism has a strong impact on the economies, societies, and the environment in the developing countries, especially in the host countries. Besides the socio-economic impact of the tourism sector and if managed sustainably, could be a factor in the preservation of the environment, cultural recognition, and enhancing understating among peoples.

World Tourism Day has been celebrated in most of the countries of the world for more than thirty years. Traditionally, this day hosts gatherings of tourists, festivities, and festivals dedicated to tourism.

ThemeWorld Tourism Day

Each year, World Tourism Day is celebrated to a theme proclaimed by the World Tourism Organization, to universal peace and understanding, “Tourism and quality of life”, “Best in travel: good guests and good hosts”, “Tourism is a life force for world peace”, “Free movement of tourists creates a new world”, “Communication, Information and Education: defining directions of tourism development”, “Development of tourism and environmental protection: towards long-term harmony”, “Tourism is a factor of tolerance and peace”, “Technology and nature: two difficult challenges for tourism at the dawn of the twenty-first century”, “Ecotourism is the key to sustainable development, Travel and Transport: from the imagination of Jules Verne to the reality of the 21st Century”, “Tourism and water resources: protecting our common future”, Tourism and Water Resources: protecting our common future”, “One billion tourists – one billion opportunities”, Tourism for all – promoting the universal availability of tourism”, “Sustainable Tourism is a tool for development, Tourism and its transformation in the digital space, and others”.

In recognition of the importance of international tourism in promoting better understanding among peoples, leading to greater awareness of the rich heritage of different civilizations and for a better understanding of the values of different cultures and thereby contributing to the consolidation of peace in the world, the UN Member States, at a meeting of the General Assembly in 2016, decided to declare 2017 as International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

World Tourism Day 2020 theme: Tourism and Rural Development

This theme of the celebration is chosen by members of the international community because itplays an extremely important role in providing employment opportunities outside major cities andin preserving cultural and natural heritage.

The development of tourism can help strengthen rural communities. It is estimated that 68 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, while 80 percent of those currently living in extreme poverty live outside cities and towns.

The situation is particularly difficult for young people as young people belonging to rural communities are three times more likely to be unemployed than older people.

World Tourism Day is celebrated by the UNWTO Member States in all regions of the world. It is held against the backdrop of rural communities struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. These communities tend to be less prepared to deal with the short and long-term effects of a crisis. This is due to several factors, including an aging population, lower income levels, and the continuing digital divide.

The state of the tourism industry in the face of the pandemic andthe recovery of tourism

Unfortunately, the beginning of 2020 was marked by an outbreak of coronavirus infection that affected virtually every country in the world. The challenge for the international community is to rebuild the tourism sector on a safe, equitable, and environmentally friendlybasis. It should be underlined that the tourism sector is one of the sectors most affected by COVID-19.

According to UNWTO, between 100 and 120 million jobs in the tourism sector are at risk. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) forecasts losses of 1.5% to 2.8% of world GDP. The impact of falling demand for international travel can lead to a loss of 850 million to 1.1 billion US dollars to international tourists. Losses of revenue range from $910 billion to $1.2 trillion. The current crisis in international tourism has been the worst since 1950 when the first statistical estimates appeared.

No country has escaped the consequences of the pandemic. Travel restrictions and a sudden drop in consumer demand have led to an unprecedented decline in international tourism indicators, which in turn has had a devastating impact on the economy as a whole and led to a massive loss of jobs.

Women, youth, and workers in the informal economy are most at risk of losing their jobs in the tourism sector as a result of the pandemic. This problem is most acute in regions whose income depends primarily on the state of the tourism sector.

The crisis in tourism also threatens programs aimed at protecting wildlife and world cultural heritage. Lower revenues from tourism have resulted in reduced funding for biodiversity conservation.

The restoration of the tourist industry after the pandemic will be possible only after the abolition of quarantine and other restrictions on freedom of movement and economic activity, while taking the strictest security measures, ensuring the health of the population.

The Global Recommendations for Tourism Renewal, prepared by UNWTO on May 28, 2020, set out priorities for tourism restoration, detailed actions of all responsible structures and bodies, including border management, air carriers engaged in the provision of hotel services of the private sector, tour operators and travel agencies, structures and organizations in the field of mass events, the organization of safe tourism. Importantly, these recommendations were developed jointly with the collective experience of UNWTO member states, as well as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Bank, and other authoritative organizations and structures.

The driver of the economic recovery of the post-pandemic and its subsequent growth can and should be the tourism industry. In this regard, it may be noted that the SCO Member States are implementing various programs to support the economy as a whole and its most affected industries, such as tourism, transportation of all kinds, hotel business, etc.

The pandemic has created great difficulties and challenges for all countries. At the same time, it is clear that new opportunities are emerging. The example of China shows how successfully it is possible to develop the tourism industry by using modern technology by providing “contactless” services such as virtual tours, “cloud exhibitions” and others. It is important that with the help of innovations, it is possible to improve the tourism environment and increase the overall development level of tourism facilities in our countries.

SCO cooperation in tourism

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was established in 2001 by six founding states – the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan.

After the entry of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of India in 2017, the SCO has turned into the largest organization of regional cooperation with the largest geographical coverage and population. It occupies over 60% of the Eurasian continent and 42% of the population of the Earth. It is home to about 800 million people between the ages of 18 and 25 – or about half of all young people of humanity. Since the entry of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of India in 2017, the SCO has become the largest organization of regional cooperation with the largest geographical reach and population. It occupies more than 60% of the Eurasian continent and 42% of the world’s population.

The SCO Member States have increasingly political and economic opportunities, high authority, and influence in world affairs. The rich historical and cultural heritage and enormous humanitarian potential of the SCO Member States and peoples make it natural and necessary for them to strive for deepening cooperation and understanding among civilizations and intensifying interpersonal contacts and exchanges in education, culture, and tourism; contribute to strengthening mutual trust between the countries and achieving mutually beneficial results, subsequently, which will allow joint efforts to deepen and expand cultural and humanitarian cooperation throughout the SCO region.

The member states of SCO are guided by the provisions of the SCO Charter of June 7, 2002, in which one of the key priorities of the multifaceted cooperation between the countries is cultural and humanitarian cooperation. The main goals and objectives of the SCO in this important area are to strengthen mutual trust, friendship, and good neighborliness among the member states, to encourage effective cooperation in cultural, educational, and other areas of common interest. Article 3 (Areas of cooperation) of the Charter states: “The main areas of cooperation within the SCO are the expansion of cooperation in the fields of science and technology, education, healthcare, culture, sports, and tourism”.

On May 22, 2020, the heads of tourism administrations of the SCO Member States approved the Plan of Joint Actions for Cooperation in tourism for the period 2021-2022 to give a new impetus to cooperation and interaction between our countries.

The SCO is well-positioned to become one of the world’s economic centers, which will lead to positive changes in the development of tourism. In 2019,the total GDP of the SCO Member States amounted to 22.5 percent of the world total ($18.4 trillion) and may reach 35-40% of the world totalby 2030.

According to expert estimates, by 2030, China and India will take the leading places among the ten leading economies in the world. According to the international bank “Standard Chartered”, by 2030 the GDP of the top 10 economies of the world will be 190 trillion dollars. Of this amount, 60% will come from China, India, and Russia.

The SCO Secretariat is establishing relations with UNWTO based on the Memorandum of Understanding in the following important areas of cooperation, including assistance to the SCO Member States in improving the economic well-being of local communities, including ensuring safe and easy travel protection of consumer rights, risk and crisis management, as well as emergency response stimulation of public-private partnerships, with special emphasis on initiatives contributing to the attraction of investment.

The potential for tourism development between the SCO countries is very significant. The number of UNESCO’s tangible and intangible World Heritage sites includes 143 sites from SCO member states.

To promote the country tourism brand of the SCO member states, to use tourism resources, various cooperation projects, and programs, cultural and creative products, to get acquainted with the diverse culture and interesting tourist features of the SCO member states, the project “Eight Wonders of the SCO” initiated by the SCO Secretariat has been launched and successfully implemented since June 2019, which is aimed at demonstrating the cultural diversity and tourism potential of the SCO. The project “Eight Wonders of SCO” is supported by the SCO member states. It is aimed at creating a single tourist space and is implemented to implement the relevant decisions of the 2018 Qingdao Summit of the SCO.

A series of thematic presentations on tourism topics was launched with the participation of representatives of diplomatic and trade missions, ministries and departments of SCO Member States in the field of tourism, travel companies, tour operators, as well as other specialized mechanisms of the Organization.

Each SCO Member State chose one of the sights or a set of objects that it considered possible to designate as a national “miracle”. For example, India chose the famous “Statue of Unity”, Kazakhstan – “Archaeological Complex Tamgaly”, China – “Ruins of the Imperial Palace Damin”, Kyrgyzstan – “Lake Issyk-Kul”, Pakistan – “Heritage of the Great Moguls in Lahore”, Russia – “Golden Ring”, Tajikistan – “Navruz Palace” and Uzbekistan – architectural ensemble “Poi Kalyan”.

The project “Eight Wonders of SCO” has become a milestone in the history of SCO, a demonstration of the active practical activities of the organization aimed at strengthening socio-economic ties between member states, observer states, dialogue partners, and all stakeholders. In this regard, it may be noted that the International Trade Building and the Eight Wonders of the SCO Project Pavilion have already been built on the territory of the Demonstration Zone of Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation in Qingdao as a contribution by the Chinese side to the common cause.

Presentation of the project “Eight Wonders of SCO” is planned in all SCO countries as well as located along the “One belt and one way”. Before the coronavirus pandemic, active work on its implementation was carried out, and presentations were successfully held in St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Dushanbe. Special attention was paid to the presentations in China – they took place in Beijing and Xi’an. The presentations will also be held in other Chinese cities.

Even though the pandemic has made its corrections, there is a hope that travelers from the countries of the SCO’s big family will be the most active tourists, which will allow reviving strong cultural and humanitarian ties and contacts between countries and nations.

The SCO Secretariat is actively and productively cooperating with the World Federation of Tourist Cities (WFTG).

It should be noted that the WFTG was established on September 15, 2012, at the initiative of Beijing and is an international non-governmental tourist organization formed in conjunction with tourist cities and tourism-related institutions around the world. The WTTCG is one of the largest global tourism associations along with UNWTO, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), and the Asia Pacific Tourism Association (APTA).

It is worth mentioning that the WFTG has its headquarters and secretariat in Beijing. The official languages of the WFTG are Chinese and English. The Federation has 218 members, including 145 member cities, 73 tourism organizations, and companies operating in the tourism sector. It may be noted here that 43 out of 145 cities of the WFTG member states are located on the territory of the SCO member states. Currently, four cities of Central Asian countries – Almaty, Dushanbe, Nur-Sultan, and Samarkand are accepted into the ranks of this Federation.

The activities of the WFTG must be aimed at providing its members with services covering the entire tourism industry chain, as well as to spread the experience of development of tourist cities, promotion of tourist products and resources, development of the tourism industry.

On September 5, 2020, the World Conference on Cooperation and Tourism Development was held in Beijing on the theme “Reviving World Tourism for Prosperity” as part of The China International Fair For Trade in Services (CIFTIS 2020), at which the SCO Secretariat participated.

In conclusion, the celebration of World Tourism Day is an opportunity for the international community to re-think the future of the tourism sector, including in terms of achieving sustainable development goals. Tourism can ultimately help countries cope with the consequences of the pandemic by building solidarity and trust, essential elements of global cooperation so badly needed nowadays.