1709618818 Natalia Bayona WTO Tourism must be regulated with citizens in

Natalia Bayona (WTO): “Tourism must be regulated with citizens in mind” | Business

Natalia Bayona WTO Tourism must be regulated with citizens in

Natalia Bayona (Bucaramanga, Colombia, 1985) is an expert in the tourism sector and, since last year, Executive Director of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), whose headquarters are in Madrid. His first year in office was marked by the extraordinary recovery of tourism after the outbreak of the pandemic, with a record 85 million foreign visitors to Spain and global tourism as a whole on the verge of reaching pre-2019 levels, just before the coronavirus paralyzed travel.

In an interview in his office, Bayona emphasizes the importance of training for the industry and considers it crucial to regulate the boundaries of tourism in harmony with citizens.

Questions. What would you highlight about the sector's development over the last year?

Answer. Globally, we have achieved an 88% recovery compared to 2019, with 1.3 billion tourists arriving in 2023. Furthermore, revenues have increased to $1.4 trillion, a 93% recovery. And there is something important: the indicator that has never fallen in these years is investments in technology, with 20,000 million invested in startups. Innovation is the main vehicle for tourism development. By region, Europe concentrates 54% of international tourism, with a recovery of 94%. Spain recorded record growth. And countries like Albania stand out, with a growth of 53%, Andorra with 31%, Iceland with 15%… That's great because they are emerging countries. On the one hand, in Spain we have spectacular dynamism as a global tourism leader and, on the other hand, emerging markets are also growing in Europe, America, Africa…

Q What are the challenges for 2024?

R. Education is one of the big challenges. Tourism is the world's largest employer of young people, but 50% of young people working in tourism have only a secondary education. And in OECD countries only 25%. And that has to do with a second challenge: improving the salary base and working conditions.

Q Tourism is considered an unattractive employment sector with many temporary jobs.

R. For many young people, working in tourism companies, as waiters or tour guides, is a way to supplement their studies. We need to work to ensure that tourism is seen as a stable job, a sector to stay in, and not something temporary that makes the jump to another sector where it pays better. It is therefore important to integrate tourism into secondary and university education, as has already been done in some countries. In tourism, you need to have not only leadership and communication skills, but also knowledge of business, law, etc. Sometimes people think that studying tourism is equivalent to becoming a waiter.

Q High-budget tourism is encouraged in Spain.

R. The positive thing is the increase in the quality of the facilities, coupled with better salaries etc. But it is also true that there has to be something for everyone, not everyone can go to a hotel. The beauty of tourism is that it democratizes. If you can't go to a five-star hotel, you can go to a good hotel.

Q Are there examples of innovation?

R. One of them is the use of virtual reality and augmented reality, which is used, for example, to show the traveler what the experience of visiting a museum will be like. Also artificial intelligence, perhaps most important because it is used to predict the viability of a destination. Using visit data from the last few years, the model predicts the times with the greatest traffic jams and helps take measures to avoid them. And thirdly, big data analysis allows us to know the customer very well and to personalize the offer.

Q As tourism recovers, some destinations are once again congested. Is it possible to set boundaries?

R. Tourism can be organized. It's very simple: you have to sort it out collectively. Tourism must be regulated with citizens in mind. You have to work with those who are the main beneficiaries or those affected, also with hoteliers, travel agencies, with the police… In Ibiza, for example, you can see how to diversify so that the island does not become a party destination, but also nature. And that has to be agreed upon first. You have to decide what the carrying capacity of a target is and regulate it. Bhutan, for example, has decided to have only a few tourists per year. You also need to decide whether to choose high-spending tourism, what opening hours you want to set for shops and entertainment venues, what conditions for visiting the beach and what types of services can be provided to ensure that there is trust, there is security in fate. Secondly, tourists need to be educated and made aware that they need to treat the destinations they visit as if they were their own home. Tourism must be taken seriously, it must be treated as a state matter. The Spanish government, for example, has invested heavily in this tourism and Spain exports its model to many countries.

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