Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


July 27, 2020 - Washington, DC

Dear Friends,

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our region are well documented. The travel and tourism sector as well as those businesses in the tourism value chain have been among some of the worst affected by the crisis, with many countries in our region disproportionately so, because of their dependence on tourism as a main foreign exchange earner. In June, the OECD indicated that revised scenarios demonstrate a 60% decline in international tourism in 2020, with a potential decline of up to 80% if recovery is delayed to December.

In its July 2020 report, the Inter-American Development Bank stated that the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a negative shock of between 40% and 70% in a single year for the tourism sector.

These numbers present a daunting challenge for the governments of our region who have had to take decisive action to support tourism businesses, while revenues have been virtually erased. Some have deferred the collection of income and hotel and tourism taxes; others have provided relief to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, many of which are directly or indirectly linked to tourism. Unemployment in the tourism sector is yet another pressing matter needing urgent attention.

Of course, at the center of it all is the impact this pandemic has had and continues to have on lives and livelihoods. Our world has changed in unimaginable ways.But we must remained resolved to emerge and to continue to build the region that we want, for our people.

As countries begin reducing domestic restrictions and re-opening their borders to international travel and tourism, it is important that we maintain dialogue among OAS member states around the common challenges that we face. One of the key lessons from this pandemic is that no one country can address these challenges alone. Nowhere is this more evident than in the tourism sector, which depends on the movement of people across borders; each country’s action or inaction affects the other. It is important therefore that we understand our shared responsibility in the recovery of our region. It is only through dialogue and the sharing of experiences that we can take collective action for the benefit of all. Throughout its history, the OAS has been the bedrock of Inter-American cooperation and hemispheric solidarity. We have always aspired to bring our countries together, to coalesce around common solutions, and at no time in our history has this ideal of cooperación solidaria been more important. This pandemic presents us with an opportunity to reassess how we harness the power of cooperation and partnerships to develop a more sustainable and inclusive tourism.

Today’s gathering provides us with the opportunity to begin some of these conversations. It also provides a space for countries to exchange experiences on actions taken or need to be taken to support the revival of the tourism industry. I hope that this dialogue, which is beginning with a small group from each sub-region, will expand to include all member states with the convening of the special meeting of the Inter-American Committee of Tourism on August 14. Under the leadership of Mexico, the Special Virtual Meeting will explore common actions for a safe re-opening of travel and tourism in the Hemisphere, as well as the future of airline travel and cruise tourism in the Americas.

I thank Costa Rica, the permanent of Observer France for their leadership in organizing today’s meeting, and I am grateful to Argentina, Canada, Chile, Jamaica, Mexico and Peru for agreeing to be part of this conversation and to share their perspectives on these issues.

We are glad to be part of these conversations. We will continue to provide platforms for exchanges of information on policies, programs and possible solutions for member as they lead their recovery from this pandemic. I am convinced that, by working together, we can innovate to emerge from this unchartered situation with new vision for tourism.

I look forward to being part of the discussion today and reiterate the OAS continued support to all our member states as they seek a safe re-opening and reviving of this important sector.

May this space serve to build agreements towards the next CITUR meeting in August, and identify other political agreements necessary to work together and revive one of the activities most impacted by the pandemic, and on which so many families in the hemisphere depend. It will definitely give the organization clues on how to best support countries' efforts in this sector.

Thank You