Tourism to play key role in employment recovery, UNWTO says

GENEVA The United Nations World Tourism Organisation and the International Labour Organization are working together towards the common objectives of job creation, sustained growth and fair globalization through decent work in tourism.

UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai is focusing on tourism employment creation at the opening of the ILO Global Dialogue Forum on New Developments and Challenges in the Hospitality and Tourism Sector, being held in Geneva this week.

“Tourism has the potential to become a major generator of jobs after the crisis,” says ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. “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.”

Rifai says the recent global economic crisis has brought with it the opportunity for the two organizations to work together towards “a real partnership for tourism.”

“At a time when we must all unite our efforts to face the major challenge of a jobless recovery, tourism can create jobs and distribute them across the economy and nations like few other sectors,” Rifai says. “Given its labor-intensive nature, tourism caters for different degrees of skills and often provides employment opportunities for the most vulnerable segments of the population such as rural communities, youth and women.”

Tourism is estimated to contribute 6% to 7% of the overall number of jobs worldwide. In 2009, it is estimated that tourism generated around 225 million direct and indirect jobs. As such, tourism provides crucial opportunities for fair income, social protection, gender equality, personal development and social inclusion—central objectives of both UNWTO and the ILO.

Tourism is also one of the most resilient economic activities. In the first six months of 2010, UNWTO reports that international tourist arrivals grew by 7% against the 4% decline of 2009. Hotels and restaurants were among the few industries worldwide where global employment levels did not decline in 2009.

The forum brought together more than 150 government, employers’ and workers’ delegates from more than 50 countries to evaluate and discuss new developments and challenges for the tourism sector and their impact on jobs, human resources, development and industrial relations. The forum addressed the strong poverty reduction potential of tourism and how good practices in this respect could be shared with other developing countries, especially within the framework of South-South development cooperation.