The island of La Palma, located in the Canary Islands, has hosted an international conference to discuss the recovery of the travel and tourism sector, organized by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism in collaboration with the World Travel and Tourism Council ( WTTC) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The world tourism leaders from more than 95 countries and 100 multinationals who have committed to address the necessary measures for the recovery of international tourism after COVID-19 have gathered.

The President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, has opened the Conference and said that the results of this Summit will benefit millions of families and companies around the world. "The priority is to make it possible to restart safe international travel and for this we must use new available tools such as diagnostic tests that are more accessible and reliable so that international travel guarantees safety." He also pointed out that we must turn the crisis into an opportunity to modernize the international tourism sector and make it more inclusive, accessible, sustainable and better distribute wealth. Finally, he recalled that the future without COVID-19 is closer, but while that future arrives, we have an obligation to mitigate the effects of this crisis in the tourism sector.

The Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, has been in charge of closing the Conference and stressed that it is “essential to have a coordinated international response that allows restarting international travel in a safe and viable way, as this will allow the travel and tourism sector to recover more quickly". During his speech, Maroto stressed that the summit is extremely important because it is the first time that the public and private sectors have committed to working together for the recovery of world tourism. He also recalled that Spain has been a pioneer in approving tourist corridors to facilitate international travel and has established the obligation of diagnostic tests prior to travel as an alternative to quarantines and travel restrictions to guarantee the restart of safe international travel. Finally, the minister insisted that the tourism sector is a priority for the Government and that more than 3,400 million euros will be allocated in the next three years for its transformation and promotion.

For her part, the president of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Gloria Guevara, He thanked the WTTC for participating in the organization of this unprecedented event, where the greatest challenge is international collaboration. He recognized and congratulated the President of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, for their leadership and commitment to coordinating work with leaders from the public and private sectors. "This meeting is historic and essential to reactivate international travel through close collaboration that allows implementing the necessary measures to recover millions of jobs in the world." He noted that the acceptance and implementation of an international protocol for rapid exit tests is essential for the travel and tourism sector, so the Declaration of La Palma will help to realize this and all the WTTC proposals presented at the G20.

The Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization, Zurab Pololikashvili, has highlighted that "the restart of tourism cannot wait, millions of livelihoods, including vulnerable populations, depend on our sector, which must return anchored in sustainability and innovation to grow better and generate benefits that go beyond tourism ”. He added that "international collaboration and coordination are key pieces on this path and I congratulate the Government of Spain for supporting the tourism sector, and the coordinating work of the UNWTO within the United Nations to achieve this shared objective."

Declaration of La Palma

As a result of the discussions, the Declaration of La Palma has been signed, which includes, among several recommendations, the adoption of international protocols for COVID-19 tests prior to departure and the acceptance of the results upon arrival at destination in the way that some countries and regions have already implemented, such as Spain and the Canary Islands. The establishment of sanitary control measures of this nature will allow shorter quarantine periods upon return to the country of origin, or even eliminate them completely.

The document proposes to establish international agreements to implement travel corridors that facilitate tourism and business trips between countries or cities with similar epidemiological situations. Likewise, companies are invited to propose new options to adapt and facilitate travel in the context of the pandemic. Such options include offering flexibility for reservations, payment terms or changes due to positive COVID-19 cases, or offering affordable or higher-value products to incentivize domestic and international travel.

Finally, the Declaration urges all parties to adjust their business models to the new global situation and work together to develop new products that boost national and international travel and tourism. Also to implement training programs to improve and empower tourism workers and SMEs, empowering them with essential digital skills to adapt to the "new normal." Finally, a more inclusive and resilient industry will be promoted by reinforcing sustainability practices in tourism.

This event is the result of the request made by the WTTC to the leaders of the G7 + Spain, South Korea and Australia requesting an agreement at the highest level to save the sector and the millions of jobs that depend on it. As a result of it, the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, reiterated his commitment to the sector and confirmed Spain's leadership in holding a meeting in which the fundamental measures to reactivate international tourism would be discussed. Likewise, the meeting followed up on the past historic meeting of the G20 Tourism Ministers Summit, in which for the first time, at the request of the host country Saudi Arabia, around 45 CEOs and members of the WTTC were invited.

During the conference, two panels were held where the future of the tourism sector was analyzed. In the first panel, the Portuguese Secretary of State for Tourism, Rita Marques; the British Minister for Sports and Tourism, Nigel Huddleston; the CEO of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac; the CEO of Iberia, Javier Sánchez-Prieto; and the head of TUI, Friedrich Joussen.

The second panel was attended by videoconference by the Kenyan Secretary of Tourism, Najib Balala; Certares founder Greg O'Hara; the Minister of Tourism of Argentina, Matías Lammens; the Vice President of Expedia, Jean-Philippe Monod; and the president of the Radisson Hotels Group, Federico González.

This event was also attended by the President of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, the Minister of Tourism of the Government of the Canary Islands, Yaiza Castilla; and the president of the Cabildo de La Palma, Mariano Hernández.

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