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Equality in Vaccine Access with World Tourism Heroes in Charge

The Saudi Minister of Tourism just hired  the most Powerful Woman in Tourism, Gloria Guevara
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Inequality in access to the COVID-19 vaccine may hinder economic development in all sectors. Saudi Arabia and World Tourism Leaders understand this. FII is coming up next week, and the world’S eyes are on Riyadh.

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  • The Future of Investment Initiative (FII) is about to meet in Riyadh. Tourism this time will have a big part in the discussion by global tourism leaders.
  • The World Tourism Network Health without Border initiative reminds Saudi Arabia and its delegates from around the globe that tourism will not function until all of us are safe.
  • Access to the vaccine is not equal in the world. While some rich nations have too much vaccines, less fortunate countries are desperate to get their citizens vaccinated. Prosperity for many lies in travel and tourism.

As of October 17, in the United States, 65% of the population has received at least 1 shot of the COVID-19 vaccination, some are now receiving the 3rd booster shot.

30% of Americans refuse to get vaccinated. The government is offering incentives for those complying with the vaccination “recommendation” and at the same time threatening those that won’t comply with penalties, such as losing jobs or accessing restaurants.

In Singapore, the vaccination rate is 80%, in China 76%, in Japan 76%, Germany 68% with a wide population refusing, Saudi Arabia 68%, UAE 95%, Israel 71%, and India 50%, with the world average now at 48%.

Now the situation gets difficult. Russia only has 35% of its population vaccinated, the Bahamas 34%, South Africa 23%, Jamaica 19% and the average in Africa is only 7.7%.

The African Tourism Board, under the leadership of Chairman Cuthbert Ncube, joined the WTN initiative on Health Without Borders from the very first moment. So did Dr. Taleb Rifai, former Secretary General of UNWTO.

Kenya Tourism Secretary Najib Balala was one of the first African leaders supporting the Health Without Borders initiative by WTN. He is now the first African minister responding to US President Biden’s push to relax patents for the COVID-19 vaccine.

There is no refusal in countries with low vaccination rates; there is a desperation to obtain enough doses to actually get the vaccine to people. There is a lack of financial resources shifting vaccines dominantly to rich countries.

Tourism leaders with a global mindset, including Tourism Minister Bartlett from Jamaica, have been instrumental in acknowledging the status and the role Saudi Arabia plays as a global key player.

With the upcoming FII in Riyadh, and 1,000 tourism leaders on planes now to get to Saudi Arabia and attend, outspoken Minister Bartlett may play a very special role as a global leader in Riyadh next week. Vaccine equality may be at the top of his mind, considering Jamaica Tourism is very much affected.

The World Tourism Network, under the leadership of Founder Juergen Steinmetz, recognized this in its global discussions in the early stages and started the initiative Health Without Borders earlier this year to remind the world that no one will be safe from COVID until everyone is safe.

Some progress has been made but regrettably at this stage in the pandemic, vaccine inequity persists, even with over 6 billion doses of vaccines distributed worldwide. The majority of these are in high-income countries whereas the poorest countries have less than one percent of their population vaccinated.

Jamaica’s Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, who also earned the title of a Global Tourism Hero, knows this and reminded eTurboNews that vaccine inequality could hinder global recovery.

In a Committee on Tourism (CITUR) meeting, Bartlett has informed of Jamaica’s government strategies and efforts to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on the tourism sector.

When the World of Tourism calls 911, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been there to respond and help. Billions of dollars have been allocated to be invested in the sector, not only in the KSA but around the world. The Saudi Minister of Tourism, His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Aqeel Al-Khateeb, hired former WTTC CEO and Minister of Tourism for Mexico, Gloria Guevara, as his top advisor. Gloria understands geopolitics and is well familiar with the situation in tourism-dependent economies, like the Caribbean.

Saudi Arabia may still try to bring the UNWTO headquarters from Madrid to Riyadh. Such a proposal to the UNWTO General Assembly in Morocco could still be submitted. At the very least, Saudi Arabia had reached out to Spain, the current UNWTO host country, so they can work together and bring leadership back into a crippled World Tourism Organization.

The upcoming Future Investment Institute is getting ready to meet in Riyadh next week. The Saudi Ministry of tourism invited hundreds of tourism leaders to be part of this meeting.

The inequality in global vaccination is in fact dangerous to the reopening progress of the sector, to job development, and to prosperity.

Vaccinated travelers most likely will choose a destination where hotel staff and other tourism workers are also vaccinated. The same goes the other way around. Hotel staff wants to make sure they are safe and vaccinated. They don’t want to interact with foreign visitors if unvaccinated.

If due to financial reasons a country doesn’t have the resources and access to the vaccine, this is a situation the global tourism community could come together on and assist each other on. Saudi Arabia could play its role as a newly-established global leader with an open and fresh mindset, to facilitate and to extend financing to such an initiative. Saudi Arabia would certainly emerge as a world hero if successful.

Such an investment on equal access to vaccines would certainly have the potential of a big payback for Saudi Arabia in medium terms.

The FII meeting is, therefore, becoming more and more important by the day.

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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