Tourism is among the industries that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis. Over a year since the onset of the pandemic, the numbers are staggering: Tourism destinations recorded one billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than in 2019.

A deep decline in international travel led to a loss of about USD 1.3 trillion in export revenues, more than 11 times the loss during the last economic crisis in 2009. 100 to 120 million tourism jobs were put at risk, a large portion in small and medium-sized enterprises.

This is a grave concern for developing economies as they chart a course towards recovery.

Driven by both public and private sectors, not only is tourism a vital source of foreign currency, it has the potential to serve as a development 'tool' to strengthen supply chains and creates one out of ten jobs and provide income for women and the people. As a former minister for tourism myself, I have seen up close, the value tourism creates for local communities and how sustainable tourism creates economic value while preserving culture and natural assets.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 29 2021, of The Himalayan Times.