Operating Sustainable and Socially Responsible Tourism in New Normal

SASANE Sisterhood was involved in empowering Women Human Trafficking Survivors and Women at risk of trafficking from vulnerable communities through Travel and Hospitality.
However, it has been a tough time for the tourism industry.
But, we are taking this time to explore new dimensions to reach the market and sustain the business to keep empowering our sisters.
The  workshop on ‘Operating Sustainable and Socially Responsible Tourism in New Normal’ was held on Nov 8, 2020 with a view to  train our sisters to reach new goals with the very same mission and vision.
To explore income diversification in order to adapt and sustain in this ‘New Normal’ situation.
To resume where we left and attain the same objective of empowering women through sustainable and socially responsible tourism.
To train ourselves to follow the safety measures and protocols to run our activities during Covid 19.

100% of Global Destinations Now Have COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted all destinations worldwide to introduce restrictions on travel, research by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has found. This represents the most severe restriction on international travel in history and no country has so far lifted restrictions introduced in response to the crisis.

Following up on previous research, the latest data from the United Nations specialized agency for tourism shows that 100% of destinations now have restrictions in place. Of these, 83% have had COVID-19-related restrictions in place already for four or more weeks, and, as of 20 April, so far no destination has lifted them.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism has shown its commitment to putting people first. Our sector can also lead the way in driving recovery. This research on global travel restrictions will help support the timely and responsible implementation of exit strategies, allowing destinations to ease or lift travel restrictions when it is safe to do so. This way, the social and economic benefits that tourism offers can return, providing a path to sustainable recovery for both individuals and whole countries.”
Tracking Restrictions by Time and Severity

The social and economic benefits that tourism offers can return, providing a path to sustainable recovery for both individuals and whole countries.

As well as a general overview, the UNWTO research breaks down the type of travel restrictions that have been introduced by destinations in all of the global regions, while also plotting the evolution of these restrictions since 30 January – when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The latest analysis shows that of 217 destinations worldwide:

  • 45% have totally or partially closed their borders for tourists – “Passengers are not allowed to enter”
  • 30% have suspended totally or partially international flights – “all flights are suspended”
  • 18% are banning the entry for passengers from specific countries of origin or passengers who have transited through specific destinations
  • 7% are applying different measures, such as quarantine or self-isolation for 14 days and visa measures.

Against this backdrop, UNWTO has been leading calls for governments worldwide to commit to supporting tourism through this unprecedented challenge. According to Secretary-General Pololikashvili, the sudden and unexpected fall in tourism demand caused by COVID-19 places millions of jobs and livelihoods at risk while at the same time jeopardizing the advances made in sustainable development and equality over recent years.

How to practice responsible tourism during COVID-19

1. How COVID-19 affected travel

The coronavirus pandemic has hit us all hard. The way we work, the way we socialize, even the way we exercise – it all changed. When the UK Government announced we’d be going into lockdown on the 23rd March 2020, most plans, including travel, were put on hold.

But it wasn’t just the UK affected. Across the globe, borders closed and citizens were asked to stay home. Coronavirus brought the world to a standstill. Just weeks before the UK lockdown, we’d seen how Italy had become the ground zero of Europe’s coronavirus crisis (declaring a total national lockdown on 10th March). It was a cautionary tale of what was to come in the UK and elsewhere.

Across the world, popular destinations usually teeming with visitors were empty. Cafes, bars, restaurants, museums, theatres, theme parks and all the other places we might visit on holiday around the world closed their doors. Major events which contribute to tourism, such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, were also postponed.

Not only were visitor numbers halted, but the journeys made locally by residents were falling. By 31st March, according to data from travel app Citymapper, which includes journeys using public transport as well as walking, residents in cities like Madrid, Paris, London and New York were making fewer than one-tenth of the journeys using the app as they normally would. From the start, it was clear COVID-19 would affect us on a local and global basis.

But we’ve also shown resilience, compassion and a sense of unity. It’s something we’ve gone – and are going – through together. Aviation analyst Paul Charles told the BBC:

“We will get through this. We have an inherent desire to travel. It’s in our DNA. The virus is not going to kill that off. We will want to travel again and the industry will recover.”

The accessibility of travel before the coronavirus outbreak

Before the outbreak, you could book a flight in the morning and be in another country by evening. Although it’s not the way many people travel, it highlights how accessible travel can be. It’s never been easier to learn about the world and meet people from different cultures.

But where does the idea of wanting to do this come from? Tourist tendencies can be traced back to early civilizations such as the Phoenicians, Mayans and the Shang dynasty, when people travelled not only for commercial purposes, but out of curiosity. There are early religious reasons for travel too, with pilgrimages to Mecca and Buddhist sites some of the earliest examples of people travelling to popular destinations.

Paul Stock, associate professor of international history at the London School of Economics, told The Guardian that the “foundations of modern tourism” are in ‘the Grand Tour’. A travelling trend from back in the 17th century, aristocrats started taking similar routes around Europe – often after finishing their studies, similar to backpackers of today taking a gap year.

Early recorded activities – including souvenir collecting and partying – were similar to what some tourists get up to today. “Virtually every aspect of modern holiday-going, with the single exception of sunbathing, can be traced back to the period of the Grand Tour,” says Stock.

These patterns are now the driving force behind a huge industry. Tourism was worth about $1.7tn (£1.3tn) to the global economy in 2018. In that year, there were a record 1.4bn international tourist arrivals, according to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), a rise of 6% over 2017.

The rise in budget airlines, lodging websites and digital innovation have all played their part in driving tourism. The availability of online bookings has driven down prices, yet the reliance on reviews has made sure satisfaction remains high.

But where are all these visitors coming from? Typically, the number of tourists leaving a country not only tends to correlate with population, but with income too. And one of the best examples of this is China’s huge growth in tourism abroad. Before the pandemic took hold, Chinese travelers were expected to make 160m trips abroad in 2020. They are the largest and fastest-growing group of travelers in world tourism.

An insight into the impact of lockdown

Coronavirus has been a global pandemic, with the effects felt across the world. As a result, it’s little surprise international tourist arrivals were down by a global average of -44% in the months January-April 2020. That’s a huge fall from a global growth of 4% in 2019, with the downward trend likely to continue for much of the summer.

International Tourist Arrivals

January – April 2020


2019: 1.5 Billion (+4%)
Jan-April 2020: -44%

In April 2020, at least 91% of the world’s population were living in countries with restrictions on international travelers who weren’t citizens or residents (this included tourists, as well as business travelers and new immigrants).

Because tourism relies on the same movement of people that spreads the virus (hence why lockdowns were implemented across the world), it was always going to be one of the industries which suffered the most.

The impact of a decline in tourist arrivals is much larger than people missing out on holidays. On 7th May 2020, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimated that earnings from international tourism could be down 80% in 2020 (last year earnings were $1.7tn). What’s more, 120m jobs could be lost.

How we embraced cultural and travel experiences from our homes

Lockdown meant we had to be a bit creative with how we spent our free time – especially at the start, when we could only leave our homes if it was necessary for food, medication or exercise. While many people were juggling homeschooling and working from home, or navigating the worries of furlough or potential redundancies, it felt like there was no break at times.

For many of us, we go on holiday to get that break from routine and the stresses of daily life. That wasn’t possible. UNWTO launched a hashtag (#TravelTomorrow) to call for shared responsibility among travelers. The idea was to share solidarity and hope that “by staying home today, we can travel tomorrow”. A wide range of countries, such as Germany, Morocco, Mongolia, Oman and Uruguay, as well as cities such as Bogotá and Vienna, endorsed the hashtag.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said:

“In these challenging times we must all play our part – staying home today, supporting the efforts of the global healthcare community in combating COVID19 – so that we can #TravelTomorrow. But this does not mean we should stop dreaming about the places we will one day travel to.”

One of the ways we’ve been sharing in this excitement is by getting involved in numerous virtual activities designed to replicate the joy and experience of travel:

Man using VR
UNWTO launchedthe hashtag#TravelTomorrow
Museum tours

Visit exhibits at The Louvre and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or listen to a curated Spotify playlist of the newly released archival content from the Grammy Museum – all from the comfort of your own home.
Landmark tours

The Sistine Chapel, Buckingham Palace and the Great Wall of China are just a few of the landmarks you can tour virtually without the crowds.
The great outdoors

And if it’s an outdoor experience you’re after, you could also try catching the Northern Lights in a live stream from Northern Canada, or experience 360-degree views from Yosemite National Park.
Zoo experiences

Watch live streams of gorillas, giraffes, and even leafcutter ants from Houston Zoo.
Could this form a part of the future of travel? These are just a handful of the thousands of experiences which cropped up during lockdown. Of course, demand for holidays will always exist. But the coronavirus pandemic has potentially sped up technology that allows holidays and leisure activities to move into a virtual world.

2. Staying informed about how, where and when to travel

If you’ve been at home, eager to get away and have a holiday, you’re not alone. We love to travel. Although people might travel for different reasons – to go on an adventure, to relax or to party – we all look forward to planning our next trip.

In one US survey, the following were given as the top reasons for travelling:

85%to see my child excited about the experience
82%to relax/reduce stress
81%to make memories
78%for fun, excitement, and adventure
73%to see or do something new
72%to see more of the world
66%to strengthen relationship with a significant other
65%to strengthen bonds with family and friends
60%to improve outlook on life
55%to learn something new about a place, culture or history
40%to continue a family tradition
35%to cross off an item on bucket list

It’s easy to see how the freedom to travel will be crucial to the post-pandemic recovery – not only for economic reasons, but because of the sheer joy of it. From the ability to see friends and family to exploring new cultures, travelling is a unique opportunity.

Travel corridors and other plans to restart tourism

It could be said that we took travelling for granted. There was a tendency to complain, rather than realise how easy travel had become – the numbers of people, the speed of getting to another destination and the relatively low cost of it all.

The term ‘jet set’ was actually coined back in the 1950s in America, when international travel was such a rarity that it actually meant something. It was a privilege to fly on new commercial jet airliners and only the wealthy or celebrities were regular travelers. Now that the world’s attractions are mostly open to people from all over, the idea of ‘jet setting’ seems quite bizarre. Most people can now write up a bucket list and hope they get to see quite a few of the sights or countries on it.

Travel has not only given us more opportunities, but it also has the potential to help us recover from COVID-19. NWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said:

“Historically, tourism has proven itself as a key driver of international recovery, and as early as now [6th April 2020], we must begin to prepare in order to build the foundations of the future resilience of tourism.”

So how is a gradual re-opening of tourism predicted to happen after the coronavirus outbreak? At the time of writing, some of the plans below have been set in motion and others are still being investigated further. But all show hope for the future of travel:

Lady travelling
Historically, tourism hasproven itself as a keydriver of internationalrecovery

Travel arrangements

In order to allow tourists to make informed decisions about where and when they should travel, you may have heard about the following:

Travel bubbles

A travel bubble is the idea that groups of countries reopen their borders among themselves. The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania opened their borders to one another, for example, and created a travel bubble in May.
Traffic light systems

A traffic light system classifies countries as green, amber or red depending on the prevalence of coronavirus.
Green lanes

Open borders and more accessible travel opportunities for pre-screened travellers. It’s suggested these could be used for people who have antibodies showing immunity to COVID-19, but there is some speculation around whether this is possible.

Digital predictions

The longer-term solutions for balancing the risk of COVID-19 and the need to travel may be digital:

Contactless icon

Contactless innovations

Across all stages of going on holiday (from exchanging travel documents to check-in at your hotel), there’s a risk of spreading germs and infections – even with comprehensive cleaning. That’s why the World Economic Forum (WEF), amongst others, are predicting a rise in automation. Options include contactless fingerprint identification, iris and face recognition, and touchless entry systems with gesture control and voice commands.

Digital icon

A digital identity

The idea of touchless travel as explained above is somewhat reliant on digital identity solutions. A digital identity allows any relevant travel organization to draw on multiple data points, allowing them to assess a person’s risk. The World Economic Forum’s Known Traveler Digital Identity is one such initiative. Travelers can manage their own identity data and would be able to store verifiable health credentials (such as immunization or their health status) in their digital identity wallet. This could avoid queuing and bottlenecks at airports because risk assessments could actually be made before the journey. A digital identity could contain:

Travelers can manage their own identity data and would be able to store verifiable health credentials in their digital identity wallet.
A digital health passport

Until a vaccine for COVID-19 is created, the focus is on the risk of individual passengers. Travel companies and airlines could “use personal data such as [a traveller’s] age, underlying health conditions and travel history to compile an individual risk profile,” according to the WEF.

A digital passport

Passports are the main form of identity for any traveler. Instead, a document-free version of travel could use standardized travel credentials. IATA’s One ID concept is one initiative promoting the use of biometrics.

It’s also likely that progress will be seen more quickly in countries that coped better with COVID-19. In countries that didn’t manage as well, and which could still be struggling, it may take longer for travel to normalize.

The idea that a passport affords us certain privileges has been altered by coronavirus. “A superseding factor has emerged: how well a country has avoided or contained the coronavirus,” says The Washington Post.

Many countries are starting to implement policies. UNWTO briefing notes from June 2020 highlight two areas of interest. This table highlights the steps countries have started to take to enable tourism to flourish. It’s a positive sign that countries are preparing to open up in the right way.

Countries have also supported those reliant on the tourism industry. For example, Italy allocated some money to the tour guide sector, guaranteeing freelance workers €600 for March and €600 for April. But those workers are looking forward to tourists returning and enjoying holidays in Italy.

As Portugal discovered at the end of August when it joined the UK’s travel corridor list, tourists are keen to return. And the country’s tourist board has been reassuring visitors that their holiday experience should feel close to normal: “The situation is evolving very positively and the majority of the country will be open with minimum restrictions imposed.”


Vouchers (preferred to reimbursement) for trips and travel packages cancelled due to COVID-19Albania
Republic of Korea
Amendments in contract laws to protect both customers and tour operatorsBulgaria
Micronesia FSM
Guidelines and recommendations on concluded tourist package contracts whose implementation is impossible due to COVID-19Costa Rica
Czech Republic Singapore
New Zealand
Health and safety protocols, certifications and labels in tourism establishments (accommodation sector, restaurants, spa and wellness centres, etc.)Ecuador
United States
Creation of safety corridors between countries to restart international tourismIreland
Shop opening

For example, Spain has created a Safe Tourism Certified system. With a framework for everyone to work from, and guides for reducing the spread of coronavirus in the tourism sector, industries know what the standards are and visitors can also feel comfortable.

It’s likely more countries will have joined the list since the time of writing as authorities move quickly to get the right systems in place for tourists to visit.

This table explores which countries have been promoting tourism – another healthy sign that they are prepared to invest in tourism to kick-start it once again. For example, Egypt approved a new initiative promoting travel to Upper Egypt during the summer months in 2020. This included a reduction of visa fees for travelers arriving at Luxor and Aswan Airports and discounts on entry fees to archaeological sites in Qena, Luxor and Aswan.

Product development initiativesRepublic of Korea
Holiday vouchers for domestic travelAustralia
New Zealand
Forecast of domestic tourism demandMalaysia
Fee waivers on air services charges on domestic airline operations and domestic and regional aviation security chargesGeorgia
Domestic tourism promotion and marketing campaignsChina
Co-financing smaller promotional projects and executing projects on the domestic marketKenya
Kingdom of Eswatini
Shop opening

Advice for hesitant travelers

Do you still need convincing to travel again? That’s absolutely fine. It’s OK to be uneasy about flying, leaving the country, staying in a hotel or any aspect of travelling. The coronavirus pandemic has made many of us a bit anxious.

For the more anxious traveler, there are plenty of solutions:

Travel icon

Defer travel until 2021 (or later)

There’s no pressure to go on holiday this year or next. Only travel when you feel comfortable to do so. If you had already booked a holiday for 2020, you may be able to simply push it back a year. Talk to your travel provider about what’s possible.

World icon

Choose your location sensibly

You might feel more comfortable on the coast, rather than in a city. Or in a country with a proven track record of managing COVID-19. You can start with the government’s list of travel corridors (countries you can visit without having to quarantine) and see where takes your fancy.

Big Ben icon

Buy travel insurance

You should always get travel insurance when you go on holiday. But look for providers that cover the possibilities you may fall ill with COVID-19 or your holiday could be cancelled if official advice changes.

Essential news to keep an eye on

Ever-changing rules and regulations aside, we’re creatures of habit. Whether it is 2020, 2021 or 2022, we will be travelling again. But one thing COVID-19 has shown us is how little we can confidently predict what will happen tomorrow, or next month.

If you want to travel sooner rather than later, it is becoming increasingly possible. But it’s also essential to keep an eye on the news for any updates. Before booking, it could be useful to check the following sources of information: