The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has said safely restarting tourism globally is possible even in these challenging times of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It has also urged governments to shun timid leadership and "do everything they can to get people travelling again and implementing all the protocols which are part of the new reality."
Rapid but rigorous testing at ports plus tracing and tracking apps have the potential to drive tourism's safe restart, UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a message to member countries on Tuesday.
"These solutions need to be fully embraced, not just cautiously explored. To delay would be a catastrophe and risk undoing all the progress we have made to establish tourism as a true pillar of sustainable and inclusive development," he added.
People have learned how to behave in a responsible way. Businesses and services have put protocols in place and adapted their operations. "Now it is time for those making political decisions to close the gaps, so that we all can advance together," he said.
Mentioning that tourism has a long history of adapting and responding to challenges head-on, he said, "Global tourism has led the way in finding and implementing solutions that will help us adapt to the new reality as we wait for a vaccine that could be many months away."
Zurab also said a sudden and rapid fall in tourist arrivals cost an estimated $320 billion in only the first five months of this year, which is three times greater than the impact of the Great Recession of 2007-09 on the sector.
Tourism is paying the price because the governments of many countries, for too long, have overly focused on citizens' health only, he said, adding; "however, they also have a responsibility to protect businesses and livelihoods."
He urged the governments to send out strong, clear and consistent messages to people rather than only make policy moves that ignore the fact that "only together are we stronger and able to overcome the challenges we face."