With COVID-19 bringing global tourism to a standstill, millions of people in quarantine have been seeking out cultural and travel experiences from their homes. Culture has proven indispensable during this period, and the demand for virtual access to museums, heritage sites, theatres and performances has reached unprecedented levels.

With more than 80% of UNESCO World Heritage properties having closed down, the livelihoods of millions of cultural professionals have been seriously jeopardized. If tourism is set to contribute to the survival of the culture sector, i.e. cinemas, arts and many other segments, it should strengthen the cultural identity and branding of tourism destinations.

Despite all the challenges, the tourism and culture sectors are facing an opportunity to create new partnerships and collaboration. They are bound to jointly reinvent and diversify the offer, attract new audiences, develop new skills and support the world’s transition to the new conditions.

The recommendations outlined below have been prepared by the UNWTO Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility Department in collaboration with its international partners with competence in culture and tourism.

Immediate Response

1.Improve information and data exchange between sectors The information flow between sectors is key to understanding the pandemic’s impacts and devising effective responses. Specific data on the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on culture and tourism, as well as on the solutions being put in place for cultural tourism survival, will allow for more focused mitigation plans to respond to different needs and replicate good practices.

2.Launch innovative alliances The confinement has proven the importance of new technology and media in our daily lives. With millions of people confined to their homes, this is an opportune moment to develop and promote cultural experiences to a captive audience. The challenge is providing these experiences in a way that supports direct benefits to the involved organisations and practitioners. During this digital transition, tourism and culture can forge alliances with tech companies and the private sector to improve access to capacity building programs on culture and sustainable tourism, available online.

3.Inspire a more sustainable future for cultural tourismThe tourism and culture sectors must continue to work together to inspire a more sustainable future for cultural tourism. Marketing strategies in tourism are highlighting local cultural expressions not only to address new audiences, but also to inspire responsible travel. Destinations and cultural sites are grappling with how to survive this period of hibernation, while planning for reopening of tourism.

4.Form a more resilient tourism and culture workforce  The professional profiles of culture and tourism workers will require new skills for immediate actions and to take part in the recovery. Both sectors need to develop creative and inventive employment solutions to provide resilience to the workforce after decades of precarity. The existing jobs in cultural tourism should be kept and upskilled as human talent and knowledge are already there.

5.Strengthen governance structures for better coordination and information sharingThis crisis is an outstanding opportunity to build cross-sectoral governance models between tourism and culture key players. These models should involve tech partners to build platforms and exchange forums to coordinate actions and share information. The platforms should imply an effective communication, decision-making and agreements on setting the limits of tourism development involving cultural assets.  

6.Attract new audiencesThe culture sector is shaping up committed global citizens and the tourists of the future, by reaching out to children & youth. The emotional bonds emerging now between citizens and cultural creators will make a difference in the years to come. The confinement can also make repeat visitors and “senior” cultural tourists support culture with patronage and solidarity actions.

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