G20 eager to boost tourism sector, hit hard by Covid-19

G20 nations pledged on Friday to cushion the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic on global tourism, one of the hardest-hit industries in which millions risk losing their jobs, news wires reported.

COVID-19 lockdowns have pounded international tourism, which is estimated to see a 45% decline this year according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

G20 tourism ministers pledged to ensure coordination as their countries ease lockdowns and travel restrictions, and to support the struggling industry's recovery. "We commit to helping tourism sector businesses... entrepreneurs and workers to adapt and thrive in a new post-crisis era," the ministers said in a joint statement after a virtual meeting hosted by the group's current president Saudi Arabia.

Up to 75 million jobs are at risk in the labour-intensive sector, they said, citing the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The tourism minister of Saudi Arabia, which last year issued its first tourist visas to boost the nascent sector, voiced hope the pandemic's impact would be "short-term". "The sites are still there, hotels are still there, restaurants are still there, waiting for visitors to come back," Ahmed al-Khatib told AFP.

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