Skip to content

Presentation by Peter Janech, Deputy Director for Europe, United Nations World Tourism Organization-UNWTO, “Cultural Tourism and Digital Transformation in the BSEC region and beyond: Lessons learned in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic” (November 10th, 2021).

The UNWTO Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility Department issued a series of thematic inclusive recovery guides reflecting the sociocultural Impacts of COVID-19. These guides resulted from collaboration with relevant partners with expertise in accessibility, women in tourism, culture, indigenous peoples’ development, and a series of other relevant issues. The guides aimed to help governments and businesses of all sizes craft an inclusive response to the impacts of the pandemic. This document is a presentation of the best practices identified by a senior UNWTO official. In the first quarter of 2020, COVID-19 brought global tourism to a standstill, confining people to their homes, as many countries entered into strict lockdowns. Culture was indispensable during this challenging period, with millions of people seeking out cultural experiences from their homes. The ability to virtually access and enjoy culture served a sense of comfort, as well as a source of inspiration for the travel of tomorrow. The staggered summer opening in 2020 had set bases for a rather slow recovery of cultural tourism in both rural and urban areas. Cities traditionally played a major role in cultural tourism. They were the first, but also among the most to be affected by the pandemic, that resulted in restrictions and shutdowns in urban tourism. However, being hubs of innovation and creativity, they were the first allowing their inhabitants and people around the world to embrace culture in alternative ways. On the other hand, tourism in rural areas offered important opportunities for recovery as travellers sought less crowds, open-air experiences and local cultures. Both the presentation and the recovery guide demonstrate that effective cultural tourism solutions require inclusive approaches at all levels, bringing together artists, creators, tourism and culture professionals, the private sector and local communities, and all relevant stakeholders for an open dialogue and real-time solutions. The backing of policymakers is needed to make sure these solutions prosper on the ground. As the crisis continued with destinations re-opening and closing across the world, the tourism and culture sectors were required to adapt quickly and respond effectively at short notice. The global pause of travel created an opportunity to move away from unsustainable practices of the past, towards more resilient, inclusive and resource-efficient models that contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).