On Thursday 11 June 2020, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) concluded its COVID-19-themed webinar series with a conversation about the tourism sector and its importance for the least developed countries (LDCs).

Belise Kariza of the Rwanda Development Board highlighted the value of the sector for the country’s development and that it is fundamental to the economy, noting that in 2019 tourism contributed 10% to Rwanda’s GDP. Kariza reported that in March 2020 tourism arrivals had fallen by 54%, and detailed the coronavirus recovery and re-opening plan for the tourism and hospitality sector, including new protocols for tourists and guides.

UNWTO’s Zoritsa Urosevic noted that in 2019, the least developed countries (LDCs) had only 2.8% of total world tourism arrivals, but that the sector was key to those countries, representing 80% of their services exports. In a UNWTO study done with EIF, 42 out of 47 LDCs have tourism as a key sector, and Urosevic emphasized the need for international coordination and support so LDCs can recover.

Anna Spenceley, Chair of IUCN WCPA Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group and Board Member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, discussed her ongoing research looking at tourism’s decline as it affects tour operators working with wildlife tourism and in protected areas, with 64% of local employees now on reduced wages, from her survey respondents.

With inequalities being exacerbated by the pandemic, LDCs are being struck hardest, and the discussants addressed good practices and solutions being put in place, from securing financing to implementing sustainable tourism guidelines to looking at domestic tourism for solutions – and to protecting wildlife and the environment.

Over 2,200 people joined EIF’s three live discussions over May and June that focused on the coronavirus and how it is affecting health and incomes in the world’s poorest countries. Hosted by EIF’s Trade for Development News together with partners UNDPUNWTO and the Commonwealth, the aim was to raise awareness about what is happening in LDCs and to cover underreported topics.

Designed to focus on the issues participants felt were important, webinar panelists answered questions live from audiences joining from all corners of the world, including Nepal, South Africa, Sweden and the Solomon Islands.

Covering the issues of fragile countriesLDC graduation and tourism, EIF’s webinar series hosted expert guests, with conversations complemented by articles published ahead and after in Trade for Development News, including suggestions for improving international support to LDCs and how we could rebuild the tourism sector better.

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