Lagoon in the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands are a paradise destination for tourists, which provides income opportunities for the local population.
Photo: ©FAO/Sue Price

Rural areas suffer from tourism restrictions

27 September is World Tourism Day: Tourism empowers rural communities, providing jobs and opportunity, most notably for women and youth.

World Tourism Day 2020 is dedicated to “Tourism and Rural Development”. It sheds light on the unique role tourism plays in providing opportunities outside of big cities and preserving cultural and natural heritage all around the world.

This year, World Tourism Day comes at a critical moment, as countries around the world look to tourism to drive recovery, also in rural communities where the sector is a leading employer and economic pillar.

Tourism creates employment and income opportunities


For countless rural communities around the world, tourism is a leading provider of employment and income opportunities. In many places, it is one of the few viable economic sectors. Moreover, development through tourism can also keep rural communities alive, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) states. It is estimated that by 2050, 68 per cent of the world population will live in urban areas, while 80 per cent of those people currently living in ‘extreme poverty’ live outside of towns and cities.

The situation is particularly hard for youth: young people in rural communities are three times more likely to be unemployed than older adults. Tourism is a lifeline, offering young people a chance to earn a living without having to migrate within their home countries or abroad.

Many communities in rural areas are struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rural communities are usually much less prepared to deal with the short and longer-term impacts of the crisis. The underlying factors include their aging populations, lower income levels and the continuing ‘digital divide’. Tourism could be part of a solution to all of these challenges.

International tourist numbers drop dramatically because of COVID-19


International tourist arrivals plunged 93 per cent in June when compared to 2019, according to data from the World Tourism Organization in September 2020, showing the severe impact COVID-19 has had on the sector. International tourist arrivals dropped by 65 per cent during the first half of the year. This represents an unprecedented decrease, as countries around the world closed their borders and introduced travel restrictions in response to the pandemic.

Over recent weeks, a growing number of destinations have started to open up again to international tourists. UNWTO reports that as of early September, 53 per cent of destinations had eased travel restrictions. Nevertheless, many governments remain cautious, and the lockdowns introduced during the first half of the year have had a massive impact on international tourism. The sharp and sudden fall in arrivals has placed millions of jobs and businesses at risk.

(UNWTO/ile)

Visit the World Toursim Day website 

Read more at UNWTO website