The 20th WTTC Global Summit to Be Held in Cancun, March 2021

The 20th WTTC “Global Summit” to Be Held in Cancun, March 2021

In a once in a lifetime event, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) will be hosting its acclaimed Global Summit with a specific focus on the Coronavirus and its effects.

Originally planned for this Spring but inevitably cancelled, the next travel conference will be held in 2021 between 23-25th of March in The Moon Palace Convention Centre (Cancun, Mexico).

The WTTC, a major representant of the private sector in the travel & tourism industry, has partnered with the government of Quintana Roo to hold the event in the safest possible circumstances. The best hygiene protocols will be implemented to ensure that all guests and staff (VIP or not) are out of harm’s way. Top-quality resort cleanliness and regular entrance (temperature & health) checks will highlight Covid-19 protocols, which will be counselled by the lastest scientific news and advice. Moreover, spacious outdoor sessions will be held with a limited number of attendants to uphold the right amount of physical distancing. For those who are not able to be present at the resort, there will be an option to join in virtually. Anyone can join the online conference for free, but there’s a limit of 20,000 registrations available.

WTTC President & CEO, Gloria Guevara, explained the importance for the utmost safety of this special event, and reflected upon the WTTC’s objectives to revive the tourism industry:  “Every aspect of the 20th WTTC Global Summit is being explored to ensure it complies with the world’s best available health and hygiene protocols to show with best practice, how major conferences can be held safely and securely in the new normal of the COVID-19 world. WTTC wants the Global Summit to learn from the challenges of the pandemic to showcase how we can use this experience to adapt to COVID-19 and lead the global Travel & Tourism sector back to recovery and save millions of jobs – and thousands of business large and small – which have been thrown into turmoil since the beginning of the year. The stakes in the Travel & Tourism sector could not be higher, so the WTTC platform provides an essential form for the very highest industry leaders and key government representatives to discuss and take action.”

 

Venice Determined to End Mass Tourism Even after Lockdown

Venice Determined to End Mass Tourism Even after Lockdown

It is of no surprise that Venice has achieved worldwide notoriety in over-tourism. A city whose permanent resident population barely reaches 55,000, and on the other hand receives 20-30 million visitors per year (most of them being day-trippers and cruise passengers), is the archetype of mass tourism.

Most of these one-day tourists visit the exact same landmarks at the exact same time as everyone else, which by definition, reaches excess levels in carrying capacity and saturates the inhabitants, their prized heritage sites, and their everyday activities. This is a major problem, though not the only one. Overcrowding transcends socio-cultural, environmental and socio-economic impacts on a very tangible negative landscape, but the most noticeable one is that of rude and disrespectful behaviour. This has been noticed by residents on numerous occasions: From loitering to swimming in the canals, to even holding local employees hostage. It is safe to say that Venetians are fed up with this type of tourism, as neighbourhood associations and independent unions have protested cruise ships and their related mass tourism effects on several occasions.

Observing the incremental mass tourism situation in Venice, the city’s Minister of Tourism, Paola Mar, introduced a plan in 2018 to make tourists pay an entry fee (contributo di accesso) before they arrive. It was set to launch in July 2020, however, due to a spike in Coronavirus infections in Italy, the country closed its borders to international tourism, forcing the Minister to postpone the Venetian access fee to January 1, 2022. Visitors entering the city would need to pay €3 during the low season, €8 in high season and €10 during “critical” times, such as summer weekends and festivals. Because Venice is a destination that mainly relies on tourism income, it has been agonizing due to lockdown restrictions, therefore the only ones exempt from this fee will be visitors who spend the night.

Minister of Economy, Michele Zuin, emphasized the need for the tax to be implemented in a gradual manner: “In light of the current situation around the Covid-19 pandemic, we have decided to make an important gesture regarding the optics of wanting to encourage the tourists’ return. The next 14 months will be spent developing the system that will allow people to reserve their slots ahead of time.”

New Zealand Targets High-Spending Tourists Instead of Backpackers

New Zealand Targets High-Spending Tourists Instead of Backpackers

Following Jacinda Arderns re-election in early October 2020, the Labour Party government has undergone several structural changes. One of which, was settling Hon Stuart Nash as Minister of Economic and Regional Development, Tourism, Forestry and Small Business.

With a relatively young political life, Nash officially entered the governmental realm in 2014, where he was elected as a Labour Member of Parliament for Napier. After the General Election in 2017, he was chosen as Minister of Police, Revenue, Fisheries and for Small Business. He has described himself on occasion as a “public servant, employed by the people of New Zealand; and as a social democrat committed to sustainable economic development and growth.

Upon his recent restructure of duties, Nash has clearly stated his intentions for the post-pandemic tourism sector. At the Tourism Industry Aotearoa Conference in Wellington, the Minister highlighted the need for public marketing efforts to be focused towards “high-net-worth individuals”. Ideally, people who fly “business class or premium economy, hire a helicopter around Franz Josef (A Glacier national park) and eats at a top-end restaurant”.

Not only does he aspire to attract this type of visitor demographic, but he has also criticized backpackers and road-trippers without sugar-coating his words. He condemned some of their ill-mannered actions and said they “pull over to the side of the road and shit in our waterways. If you’re willing to pay for a campervan at least you have the ability to dispose of your excrement in a way that meets our sustainability goals, and quite frankly our brand. We haven’t got tourists here at the moment. So we have an opportunity to redefine our global value proposition and market to those who add significant value to our country.”

The brand “100% Pure New Zealand” is now globally recognized, and promotes the islands’ natural beauty while at the same time advocating the need for a sustainable and respectful type of tourism. Nash’s intentions are to uphold the value and reputation of the brand by marketing New Zealand towards respectful tourists, but the correlation between ‘high-spending’ and ‘respectful’ might not necessarily be true.

 

Skyscanner Releases COVID-19 Travel Insurance

Skyscanner Releases COVID-19 Travel Insurance

A fresh new partnership between global travel market leader Skyscanner, and insurance tech company Cover Genius, has birthed the first existing travel insurance package whose objectives are to protect the traveller from the direct and indirect consequences of COVID-19.

The initiative is facilitated by XCover, an award-winning distribution platform devised by Cover Genius, and a Skyscanner survey whose results show that 40% of frequent flyers feel more comfortable buying insurance during these turbulent times. Designed to offer peace of mind, confidence in safety, and transparency to the buyer, this package provides a safety net with a mixture of protective deeds: Airline insolvency and repatriation coverings, 24/7 medical assistance, pre-paid trip cancellation cost insurance, and failed temperature check coverings at any destination. Moreover, XCover allows one to customize their itinerary and accordingly optimize their protective kit as they see fit. Real-time data informs the customer with medical procedures and Covid-19 policies at their chosen destinations, hotels and flights.

For now, the release of this travel insurance will go through stages and is only available in Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and UK to travellers booking directly from Skyscanner App or website. Nevertheless, plans are to distribute it globally accross more than 50 countries.  The Commercial Director of the travel platform, Tiago Godinho, explained the reason for the product derived from their partnership with Cover Genius: “In today’s uncertain and changing travel landscape, the most important thing we can do is to give travellers the confidence they need to plan and book a flight, knowing that they are covered whatever happens. This first of its kind package offers a high level of cover, going as far as reimbursing travellers if they fail a temperature check at their destination, ensuring complete peace of mind for anyone wishing to travel right now.”

 

2020 Diwali in Uttar Pradesh to Be Celebrated Through Online Portal

2020 Diwali in Uttar Pradesh to Be Celebrated Through Online Portal

The Festival of Light, celebrated every 14th of November in India, takes a different route this year. Diwali (aka. Deepavali) which symbolizes the triumph of light over dark, good over evil, and as legend dictates; Lord Rama defeating the demon King Ravana. The epicentre of the festival is in Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh Province), as it is said to be the Hindu deity’s Kingdom.

The event is spread across five holy days. Fireworks are lit and Indians of all castes set up diyas (small oil lamps) across temples, streets and riverbanks, thus igniting a fiery path on their wake. This 2020, the state government of Uttar Pradesh designed a web portal to make it easier for people to light their candles from afar, without needing to breach social distancing and overall Covid-19 measures.

More than 10,000 volunteers are working at the request of everyone using the web portal, and users have the option to choose their preferred setup: Earthen, copper, or brass diyas, and their favoured oil to go with it: Mustard, ghee, or sesame oil. The website is user-friendly in explaining the options available, and when they are chosen, a portrait of Lord Rama redirects them to the temples and riverbanks, where they can virtually light up their candles and spectate the live show from the comfort of their homes. Finally, there is a possibility for followers to take a virtual selfie with the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, who personally oversees the festival preparations.

As a matter of fact, the web portal was a complete success. During the first night, Ayodhya broke a Guinness World Record by lighting 58,4572 diyas on the shores of the River Saryu. In a recent statement, Yogi Adityanath dedicated the award to his people, and reflected upon the current 2020 situation: “In spite of the global epidemic, I welcome all the devotees of Lord Rama who are present here and who have joined this program in a virtual way, on this occasion. This festival has come at a time when the whole world is struggling with Corona.”

A Statue Built in Ireland to Honour Native American Kindness During the Great Potato Famine

Two separate historical atrocities entwined, and two marginalized communities bonded through personal pain and mutual understanding. This is the story of the Trail of Tears (1830-1877) and the Potato Famine (1845-1849).

The United States Government passed a law in 1830 called “The Indian Removal Act”, whereby Native American tribes were forced out of their endemic homelands in Mississippi and Oklahoma to be relocated in designated Indian Territories. More than 60,000 Cherokee, Chickasaw, Seminole, Muscogee, and Choctaw natives (together with thousands of Black slaves) were forcibly taken by local and state militias to Little Rock (Arkansas). Many of them were killed and suffered extensively due to freezing conditions, floods, disease and famine, which is why a Choctaw Chief named their sorrowful trek the “Trail of Tears and Death“.

Not long after, the Irish were suffering a personal Hell of their own. The Great Potato Famine (aka. The Great Hunger) caused by a mass spread of diseased crops and an absent/negligent British government, reduced the population of Ireland by 25% due to starvation and forced international migration. The famine and its effects were felt for generations, and this event shaped the history of Ireland to this day. Having gone through similar circumstances, when the Choctaw peoples heard of what was going on overseas, it touched the very fibres of their being. They decided to donate $170 (equivalent to $5,000 today) in individual relief efforts to assist Ireland in its collective struggle. An act of pure compassion when the tribes themselves were still enduring scornful tyranny and relentless oppression.

Today, the utmost empathy and altruistic actions of the Choctaw is being recognised in the town of Midleton, Cork County. A 6-meter high monument called “Kindred Spirits”, designed by artist Alex Pentek has been unveiled. Eagle feathers reaching the sky in tandem comprise the symbolic sculpture located in Bailick Park, and a plaque commemorating Native American efforts during the Black ’47 (the worst year of hunger) represents “this great moment of compassion, strength, and unity”, according to Pentek.

The plaque, installed in Dublin’s Mansion House, reads: “Their humanity calls us to remember the millions of human beings throughout our world today who die of hunger and hunger-related illness in a world of plenty.”

Southern Australian Nature Parks to Receive Tourism Fund

Southern Australian Nature Parks to Receive Tourism Fund

Less than a year after the infernal bush fires that devastated 11.46 million hectares of land and killed more than 3 billion animals all around mainland Australia, the government is planning a rehabilitation strategy driven by nature-based tourism.

A further $17 million (of a total $130 million ) investment to the Southern State’s 2020-2021 budget will be injected towards revamping Nature Parks in the region. These include the Yorke Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula, Fleurieu Peninsula, Barossa Valley, Flinders Ranges and the Adelaide Hills. The Minister for Environment and Water in Southern Australia highlights that the new funding is part of the 2025 initiative to upgrade visitor facilities, experiences and accessibility, as well as conservation & environmental protection efforts.

Allocation of funds and their purpose are quite specific, and some examples involve:

  • $52 million to Kangaroo Island: New activities in Cape Willoughby and Seal Bay, upgrading infrastructure in Flinders Chase National Park, and visitor centres.
  • $18 million for better fire hazard reduction.
  • $12.5 million to create the 2nd National Park in Adelaide (Glenthorne National Park).
  • $10 million to develop Adventure travel facilities & activities in The Southern Flinders Ranges National Park.

The 46th Premier of Southern Australia, Steven Marshall, explained the main intention for such a considerable amount of government funds to be placed on Nature parks and their respective touristic potential: “This is a once-in-a-generation investment that will not only support regional communities and create local jobs, but also protect our precious environment for future generations. We are investing in projects that will revitalise parks across South Australia – from the Flinders Ranges to Kangaroo Island as well as opening up our reservoirs. This is part of our plan to keep South Australians safe and strong by creating jobs, backing businesses and building what matters. These upgrades will not only enhance our environment but will improve social wellbeing by encouraging more people to get outside, connect with nature and enjoy what our state has to offer.

The Southern Australian government might prove that investing in adventure & nature-based travel facilities, activities and services, is a way forward to drive regional economy, and therefore reinforce a tourist model that respects, and even helps to revitalize precious ecosystems and biodiversity in protected Natural Parks.

The Pyramids of Giza Will Be Renovated to Foster Tourism

The Pyramids of Giza Will Be Renovated to Foster Tourism

True to its label as one of the 7 Wonders of the World, The Great Pyramids of Giza are the most appreciated heritage site in Egypt. The 4,500-year-old structures are incomparable in their worth and authenticity, and usually attract circa 14.7 million visitors every year, providing a large fraction of national tourism revenues, which accounts to 12% of total Egyptian GDP.  In 2020, however, the COVID-19 pandemic halted international arrivals, supplying a pause for thought in the management of these precious mausoleums.

As of now, a refurbishment plan that was first put in motion 15 years ago, but frozen in 2011 due to political unrest following the revolution that overthrew dictator Hosni Mubarak, is continuing on its path with a 17 million Euro grant from Orascom Investment Holding in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. The area of focus for these renovations is “The Giza Plateau”, home to the Sphinx and the tallest and oldest stonework structure, the Great Pyramid of Khufu, and the main objectives are to ease and upgrade accessibility, convenience, and service to visitors.

The project includes building a new visitor centre, inaugurating the first on-site restaurant of its kind, and providing eco-friendly electric buses and coaches.  The restaurant, called “9 Pyramid Lounge” opened in October, and reflects genuine Bedouin lifestyle as the entire 1,341 square metered complex is decorated with tents, chairs, tables and dewaniya-styled cushions. The introduction of electric tour buses is a cathartic development to visitation at the heritage site, considering that pollution from exhaust fumes degrade the stone, and camel and donkey rides take a giant strain on the animals since up until now, they were forced to carry hundreds of tourists every single day. Moreover, souvenir sellers will be relocated to a regulated Souk nearby, set to open in 2021 for permit-holders only.

The main investor of 9 Pyramid Lounge, and CEO of Orascom Investment Holding, Mr. Naguib Sawiris, spoke on the matter of revamping the site:  “Our main objective was to upgrade the services provided to the visitors to be able to level up to the greatness of Egyptian civilisation and the magnificence of this historical site, while preserving this area from all forms of pollution, and creating a fascinating experience for its visitors.”

Red Sea Project Will Develop a Tourist Resort Over 90 Saudi Islands

Red Sea Project Will Develop a Tourist Resort Over 90 Saudi Islands

If you’re thinking of the wildest large-scale project in tourism development of our time, this is it. Right off the Western coast of Saudi Arabia, lies an archipelago which contains 90 under-developed islands with the natural vigour of comatose volcanoes, deserts, untarnished beaches and archaeological sites. These are all of the National interest and recognized as treasures worthy of conservation and protection.

The Red Sea Project is a luxury collection of villas designed by architecture studios Kengo Kuma & Associates and Foster + Partners. The project aims to open Phase One in 2022, by building 100 villas and several restaurants in the Island of Ummahat Al-Shaykh, Shurayrah Island and the Southern Dunes, as well as the Red Sea International Airport. Overall, the infrastructural plan takes up 25% of land in the archipelago, although some restaurants and villas will be built on water.

Kengo Kuma will be the one to design the villas, of which there will be two types. The ‘dune villas’ are said to resemble sandy dunes, and the ‘coral villas’ fill up space on the seabed, providing 360-degree views in their spiral shape. The Japanese company says that the architecture of the resort takes inspiration in nature, and camouflages the buildings according to the natural environment of the area: “This is a resort which seeks to embrace the natural setting and rich cultural history of the region. The design for our assets was inspired by the beautifully natural occurring elements of the island. The relatively flat terrain of the island suggested a design that works with low, horizontal volumes and that we should look to gently curve the roof of the buildings to find a harmonious relationship with the ground, with roofs emerging from the ground. The landscape which surrounds the dune villas compliments this architectural language and frames the buildings with artificial dunes and locally sourced vegetation.”

Foster + Partners, is to build the destinations International Airport as well as several hotels. Both companies, however, are working together in several projects, assessing and supervising every detail as the opening date draws near. The large-scale Saudi Arabian island resort is based on the principles of sustainability and sustainable development, because they will be using environmentally friendly building materials and methods to disturb, endanger nor destroy the natural harmony of the regions’ biodiversity. Gerard Evenden, from Foster + Partners, reassures that “Our proposals are respectful of the extreme environmental sensitivity of the region, taking a ‘light-touch’ approach that will have the least detrimental impact on the wonderful biodiversity of the islands.”

Zimbabwe Strengthens Wildlife Tourism

Zimbabwe Strengthens Wildlife Tourism

Tourism and the environment go hand in hand. Wildlife has the ability to provide countless opportunities for activity and education: from trekking to bird-watching, from fishing to photography, or simply just walking and enjoying the fresh mountain dew. Forests, agricultural fields, beaches, deserts, jungles and parks provide precious resources to the worldwide tourism industry, and the richness of their inhabitants (fauna and flora) is not to be taken lightly. After all, what would nature-based tourism be, if not for nature?

The Southern part of Africa, specifically the Republic of Zimbabwe, boasts the most remarkable ecosystems in the world. The Western province of Mashonaland alone is home to more than 6 public National Parks including the Darwendale Recreational Park, Lake Chivero, Matusadonha National Park, Kariba Recreational Park, Chinhoyi Recreational Park and the Mana Pools.

Recently, the Minister of State in Mashonaland province, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, released a public statement emphasizing the inherent ability for wildlife and landscapes to contribute to the local economy through tourism: “I am aware of the immense contribution of wildlife and conservation to the product base of this province as it has a rich wildlife product base capable of contributing immensely to the US$5 billion targets by 2025.”

The Minister is confident that greater effort needs to be made in the conservation of natural landscapes, as well as regulation and land-reclamation of potentially harmful practices such as artisanal mining: “I wish to underscore the need to step up efforts to rehabilitate numerous landscapes that have been damaged through mining activities.” Mining is well known to destroy natural habitats by releasing harmful pollutants such as Mercury and Arsenic. Not only do they have the propensity to contaminate plants and animals, but they could also infect local citizens if they reach water supplies.

On top of that, the State Minister urges various stakeholders to increase the rate of tree-planting in the region, and safari operators to take accountability in conservation efforts. Mliswa-Chikoka‘s Ministry is releasing several marketing schemes for tour operators to raise awareness in the territory’s natural diversity, with the aim of enriching the tourism and hospitality sectors and thus raise the province’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “My office will be monitoring your operations in this regard, we want a new culture of accountability especially with the safari operators, let us work together and ensure that your ventures grow the province’s GDP.”