UNWTO, Google partner to drive digital innovation in the tourism sector

23rd September 2020 By: Donna Slater - Creamer Media Contributing Editor and Photographer

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and Google have partnered to boost digital transformation of the tourism sector with the development of an online Acceleration Programme for UNWTO member States’ tourism Ministers, top travel associations and tourism boards to further develop innovation and digital transformation skills. 

The organisations note that, in comparison to other sectors, the Covid-19 crisis has disproportionately affected the tourism sector, which accounts for millions of jobs around the world.

The organisations point out that while it is difficult to forecast when the tourism sector will recover to a significant degree, people are starting to “dream of getaways” again, whether closer to home or to remote destinations.

“As more and more people go online to search where and when they can travel, accelerating the digitisation of the tourism sector will be key to adapting to the new tourism reality,” the UNTWO and Google note in a joint statement.

For these reasons, on September 23 and ahead of World Tourism Day on September 27, the organisations hosted the first UNWTO & Google Tourism Acceleration Programme focused on insights from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.

“Tourism is the backbone of many economies around the world,” the organisations state. As data from UNWTO shows, tourism represents 9% of global trade for Africa and 1-in-10 jobs directly and indirectly.

Moreover, the sector drives inclusive growth, as women make up 54% of the workforce.

UNWTO innovation, digital transformation and investments director Natalia Bayona says the UNWTO is committed to helping Africa grow back stronger.

“With the right policies, training and management in place, innovation and technology have the potential to foster new and better jobs and business opportunities for tourism in Africa while improving the overall wellbeing and prosperity of the region.”

Africa is home to 30% of the world’s population, adding hundreds of millions of new online users every year. Google Search is one of the places Africans go when researching their holidays.

As such, Google government affairs and public policy for emerging markets director Doron Avni says the company is here to help the tourism sector rise up from this unprecedented crisis and emerge stronger.

“Our travel data insights and tools can help tourism authorities identify and understand the barriers and drivers to visit travel destinations for better tourism planning.”

The UNWTO and Google note that this slowdown presents a unique opportunity to rethink tourism, innovate and further develop the digital transformation of the sector so it can build the foundations for future sustainable growth.