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Dr. Taleb Rifai, chairman ITIC and former Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, warned countries must work together to return industry to former glory.

Travel will not return to any semblance of normality until the whole world is vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Dr. Taleb Rifai, chairman ITIC and former Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

And, speaking during the opening panel session of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) on Sunday, entitled ‘Tourism for a brighter future’, he warned that the success or otherwise in dealing with the pandemic will depend on whether countries can work together to find a solution to the ongoing crisis.

He said: “Countries can’t keep doing their own thing on their own. It’s not going to work.

“It will take the world five years for 70 percent of the population to be vaccinated. No travel is going to start until the whole world is vaccinated. You cannot have Europe vaccinated and Africa not vaccinated.

“It’s a matter of how equal we are. The new world is going to be much more equitable, a much more sustainable world for sure.”

According to figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the Covid-19 pandemic saw the loss of 1 billion arrivals in 2020 as countries were forced to close borders and flights were grounded. There was an estimated loss of $1 trillion in export revenues as well as the loss of over 100 million industry jobs worldwide.

However, Dubai continues to go from strength-to-strength since reopening to the world in July last year, leading the way in terms of coronavirus testing and being part of the UAE’s successful vaccination programme – to date almost 11.5 million vaccines have been administered across the entire country.

While praising the emirate’s approach, Rifai called on others to followed their lead and adopt a more universal approach to tackling the return of travel and tourism in a post-pandemic world, highlighting how some countries are relying on quarantine measures, others on PCR testing and some pinning their hopes on a vaccine passport.