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UNWTO chief: Safe and seamless travel, technology and sustainability – priorities for tourism

unwto berlin

BERLIN, Germany – Ensuring safe and seamless travel, enhancing the opportunities brought by technology and accelerating the shift towards a more sustainable sector are the priorities for the sector said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, opening the 50th edition of ITB Berlin. (Berlin, Germany, 8 March 2016).

Referring to the issue of tourism and security, he said: “Global challenges demand global solutions and tourism development greatly depends upon our collective capacity to promote safe, secure and seamless travel. We need to cooperate, not isolate”.

Mr. Rifai called for the full integration of tourism into the national and international security agendas and alerted that “the security challenges we face today should not prompt us to build new walls” and that “enhancing security and enabling more seamless travel should always go hand-in-hand”.

On the issue of technology and innovation, the UNWTO Secretary-General said: “We need to better understand the impact of technology on our sector and maximize the new opportunities it creates to improve the competitiveness of destinations, make travel safer and easier, and manage our natural resources more effectively.”

Calling upon the tourism sector to embrace the sustainability agenda, Mr Rifai said it was time to “step up the efforts to advance policies and business strategies that ensure the contribution of the tourism sector to the Sustainable Development Goals”.

“Climate change mitigation, effective resource management, poverty reduction and inclusive growth need to be at the center of tourism development. We must make it clear that economic growth and sustainability are not at odds”, he added.

Addressing these priorities can only be achieved through increased international cooperation and cross-cutting national tourism policies. “Tourism´s ability to effectively support the economic, social and environmental foundations of many nations has raised the need for the sector to play a bigger role in national development, particularly at the highest levels of political decision-making“, Mr Rifai said.

Mr Rifai recalled that despite a slow and uneven global economic recovery, growing geopolitical challenges, health scares and security concerns, 2015 was another record year for international tourism.
International tourist arrivals grew by 4.4% to reach 1.2 billion (1.184 million), meaning 50 million more tourists travelled the world in 2015 than in 2014.

“Looking ahead, UNWTO is confident that despite increased volatility and uncertainty, 2016 will bring another year of growth to our sector, with an estimated increase of 4%”, he said.

UNWTO DECRETARY GENERAL’S SPEECH AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF ITB BERLIN 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Guten Abend. Wilkommen in Berlin, Wilkommen zur ITB.

It is my great pleasure to address you once again at the opening of ITB.

On behalf of the World Tourism Organization, allow me to start by congratulating ITB on the occasion of its 50th anniversary and by thanking ITB for the important contribution it has made for over half a century to the development of the tourism sector.

When it was first launched in 1966, this pioneering event hosted 9 exhibitors from 5 countries and was attended by 250 trade visitors.

Today, over 100.000 trade visitors from more than 180 countries gather in Berlin for what has become a leading global showcase for tourism.

UNWTO is a very pround partner of ITB and we look forward continuing working with you for the next 50 year.

Allow me also to welcome the Maldives as this year´s Official Partner Country of ITB.

The islands´ natural beauty, white beaches and abundant marine life attract visitors from all over the world, and have made tourism a lifeblood for the Maldivian economy.

Dear friends,

It is indeed a great privilege to address you another year and set the scene of world tourism and the challenges facing us.

We live in challenging times, yet tourism continues to bring us hope.
Despite a slow and uneven global economic recovery, despite growing geopolitical challenges, health scares and security concerns, 2015 was another record year for international tourism.

International tourist arrivals grew by 4.4% to reach 1.2 billion (1.184 million), meaning 50 million more tourists travelled the world in 2015 than in 2014.

Looking ahead, UNWTO is confident that despite increased volatility and uncertainty, 2016 will bring another year of growth to our sector, with an estimated increase of 4%.

Dear friends,

The robust performance of tourism is contributing to economic growth, job creation and better lives in many parts of the world, yet to ensure that this continues to be the case we must address four key priorities:

1. Promoting safe and seamless travel

Global challenges demand global solutions and tourism development greatly depends upon our collective capacity to promote safe, secure and seamless travel.

As has been highlighted too often in recent times, safety and security are priorities for all and we need to ensure tourism is fully integrated into national and international security agendas.
On the other hand, the security challenges that we face today should not prompt us to build new walls.

On the contrary, enhancing security and enabling more seamless travel should always go hand-in-hand.

2. Enhancing the role of technology and innovation in tourism

We are living through what many have called the 4th industrial revolution.

Screens are everywhere, connecting and empowering billions of people across the planet in real time, providing a voice to the silent and creating a new sense of belonging to a newfound global community.

Technology is rapidly changing consumers’ behaviour, business models, including the ‘so called sharing economy’ and destination management.

We need to better understand the impact of technology on our sector and maximize through innovation the new opportunities it has created to improve the competitiveness of destinations, make travel safer and easier, and manage our natural resources more effectively.

3. Embrace the sustainability agenda

The adoption by world leaders of both the Paris Agreement on climate and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development made of 2015 an historic year for the international community.
It is now time to step up our efforts to advance policies and business strategies that ensure the contribution of the tourism sector to this 17-goal agenda for people and planet.

Climate change mitigation, effective resource management, poverty reduction and inclusive growth need to be at the center of tourism development.

We must make it clear that economic growth and sustainability are not at odds.

It is not a matter of ethical responsibility; it is a matter of realizing benefits for all.
4. Building national tourism policies

None of the above will be possible without political will.

A UN report dated back from 1952 on the development of the Maldives pointed out that tourism was not a sector for the country as it did not have the necessary infrastructure.

The will and the commitment of the people of the Maldives have obviously proven them wrong.

Tourism´s ability to effectively support the economic, social and environmental foundations of many nations has raised the need for the sector to play a bigger role in national development, particularly at the highest levels of political decision-making.

Establishing tourism as a national priority is fundamental to securing the financial and political support needed to advance the sector.

2017 has been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

This is a unique opportunity to advance the relevance of our sector in global and national agendas and I invite you all to make the most of this occasion and shine a spotlight on tourism.

Dear friends,

Terrorism, the refugee crisis, the fight against climate change and the jobless recovery that the world still faces: all are calls for our collective action.

As we embrace a new sustainable development agenda let us ensure that while we build a more competitive sector we are also contributing to a better world.

Vielen Dank. Thank you.

Source: eTN Global Travel Industry News

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