The global tourism sector will not be able to open until the world is ready for travel under a single system, the head of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) said Friday.
For that to happen, world leaders need to come together.
"Relying on vaccination systems alone will not be enough,” said Taleb Rifai. “We need to come up with different measures. An internationally accepted system should be established,” he said, noting that less than 70% of the world's population will be vaccinated within five years if vaccination continues at the current rate.
During a speech at the Global Tourism Forum in Bodrum, Rifai said there are poor countries that cannot vaccinate most of their population.
"We must not let this turn into a political game. We need to ensure that it does not turn into a system like 'the unvaccinated cannot enter, the vaccinated can enter.'"
Otherwise, the world will be completely lost, he warned, adding that the tourism industry will be disrupted if a travel barrier is imposed to travel from a vaccinated destination to an unvaccinated one or vice versa.
He said a hybrid system can be created where vaccination and test results are displayed in a single passport. "It is important to establish an internationally accepted system that will be valid in all countries, and that international world leaders should come together and decide," he said.
Rifai said that there should be no competition between neighbors in tourism. "What is good for my neighbor will also be good for me."
He also said insurance policies can be issued to foreigners, noting that crisis and opportunity are expressed in one word in Chinese, and this process can be an opportunity.
- Countries need each other
Pointing out that the Turkish and Jordanian governments have been doing good work promoting tourism amid the coronavirus pandemic, he said: "Countries focus on their own geographies and neighbors and then open up to international waters. We need to agree on at least some procedures in the tourism sector, with transferring these standards to the international level, to a more harmonized system,” he said. “Each country acts on its own, but of course, countries need each other. We cannot think of countries individually, especially when it comes to travel."
The Global Tourism Forum kicked off Friday on the Turkish Riviera with a focus on the present and future of the sector as the coronavirus pandemic nears a more manageable phase.