Highlighting five key reasons why tourism will be a strategic pillar of any truly sustainable economic future, UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai said tourism creates jobs at a rate higher than many other sectors. Data shows that in the EU, during the last decade, the annual growth rate of employment in the tourism sector has almost always been higher than the growth rate of total employment. He was speaking at the New Economy Forum on Tourism in the new “New Economy.” “Furthermore, tourism creates wealth and jobs not just in tourism, but in other sectors as well: At a time in which many economies face domestic constraints on consumption, international tourism brings not only direct export revenues, but also a very significant indirect impact through its enormous value chain,” he said.
Describing other key points he said that tourism is one of the most resilient economic sectors. Indeed, looking back on past decades, we see that international tourism decreased on only three occasions: in 2001 (-0.4%), following September 11, in 2003 (-1.-6%) due to the SARS outbreak and in 2009 (-3.8%) in the middle of one of the worst global economic crises of our time. More importantly, international tourism demand always bounced back stronger with growth rates much above the average. If tourism is important in the good times, during a crisis it is vital.
“Thirdly tourism reduces poverty and supports development. Tourism accounts for 45% of the exports of developing countries and is often one of the sectors in which developing countries enjoy a competitive advantage given their abundant natural resources. In this respect, tourism is increasingly an important and effective tool in aid for development. Fourthly, tourism is a major contributor to a more environmentally sustainable economy. A recent report by the United Nations identified tourism as one of 10 sectors that are vital to greening the global economy. With the right investment, tourism can be a lead change agent in the move to a Green Economy by driving economic growth and job creation while simultaneously improving resource efficiency, minimizing environmental degradation and raising environmental awareness among travellers. And fifthly tourism can contribute to world peace and understanding. Quoting a Spanish journalist: “travel makes us better people”, tourism brings people of all backgrounds together and has immense potential in conflict prevention and crisis resolution. At the same time, it can be essential in bringing countries back to the international economy following a conflict, guaranteeing their stability and prosperity,” said the Secretary General.