The G20’s performance on tourism, travel and culture falls well below average, leaving much room for improvement in this sector that provides huge opportunities for employment, growth and sustainability
The topic of tourism, travel and culture has been addressed sporadically by G20 leaders. However, the Covid-19 shock and its negative consequences for the economy highlighted the role of tourism infrastructure in overall prosperity. The theme of India’s G20 presidency – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or One Earth, One Family, One Future – underscores the importance of tourism and culture for prosperity. G20 leaders will need an ambitious and collaborative approach to tackling pressing challenges.
From the first summit in 2008 to the Bali Summit in 2022, G20 leaders produced only 937 words on tourism and culture in their communiqués – an average of 0.01% at each summit and much lower than the 31% average for their top issue of macroeconomic growth. The first appearance of travel, tourism and culture on the G20’s agenda was at the 2012 Los Cabos Summit, with 0.4% of communiqué. The topic disappeared until 2017, where it received 0.3%. Tourism has been on the agenda since Osaka in 2019, with 1%, followed by 2% at Riyadh in 2020, a high of 4% at Rome in 2021 and then back to 2% at Bali in 2022.
G20 leaders have produced 22 commitments on travel, tourism and culture since 2008. The first was one on tourism at the 2012 Los Cabos Summit, for a portion of 0.6% of all commitments across all subjects. The next were two commitments on tourism and culture at the 2017 Hamburg Summit for 0.4%, and then four at the 2019 Osaka Summit (2.3%) and two again at the 2020 Riyadh Summit (1.2%). The 2021 Rome Summit again produced the most with eight (3.3%), and the 2022 Bali Summit made five (2.2%).
Of the 22 commitments produced on travel, tourism and culture, only one – on advancing digitalisation for the sector made at the 2021 Rome Summit – has been assessed for compliance by the G20 Research Group. It averaged only 45% compliance, far lower than the overall average of 71% compliance across all subjects. Only six G20 members demonstrated leadership on this commitment: Canada, China, Italy, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the European Union. Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Korea, Russia and the United States showed some progress, and the rest showed very little if any on making the digital-tourism link.
Causes and corrections
With only one commitment assessed for compliance, it is difficult to suggest definitive corrections for performance on tourism, travel and culture. Nonetheless, research reveals underlying factors that can affect compliance.
Findings on compliance across all subjects show that holding a relevant pre-summit ministerial meeting strongly correlates with higher compliance. G20 tourism ministers have been meeting since 2010, with the exception of the 2014 Brisbane and 2017 Hamburg summits. Culture ministers met for the first time under Saudi Arabia’s 2022 presidency. Under India’s presidency, tourism ministers met in Goa on 20–21 June and culture ministers met in Varanasi on 26 August. This suggests that following the summit the G20 members will comply well with New Delhi’s tourism and culture commitments. These meetings should continue annually to support timely, effective and ambitious commitments issued by the G20 leaders at their summits.
Furthermore, with tourism and culture cutting across multiple sectors, commitments on tourism, travel and culture that are linked to issues such as green energy, economic policy, labour and digitalisation could also achieve higher compliance. Research has shown that commitments related to microeconomic policy are more than three times likely to achieve strong compliance. Compliance also tends to be higher for commitments regarding energy, macroeconomic policy, labour and employment, and information and communication technologies.
However, the one assessed commitment, with its very low compliance, was linked to digitalisation and was made at the 2021 Rome Summit, under Italy’s presidency, which hosted meetings for both tourism and culture ministers. Thus, much more research is needed on this subject.
At Goa in July, Indian tourism and culture minister G Kishan Reddy emphasised the need to preserve countries’ rich heritage while creating world-class infrastructure for tourism. Indeed, the tourism and culture sectors provide opportunities for creating jobs, financing the conservation of natural and cultural heritage sites, and increasing the economic empowerment of women and youth. They also offer opportunities for economic diversification and market creation, and their value reaches across different sectors of the economy. To spur recovery worldwide, G20 leaders at New Delhi should work together to produce timely and ambitious commitments on tourism, travel and culture.