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UNWTO Deepens Tourism Cooperation with the European Union

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Photo: UNWTO

Advancing sustainable tourism across Europe is at the centre of an agreement signed today between the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the European Parliament. During his first official visit to Brussels (27-28 February), UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, met with the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, the European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Elżbieta Bieńkowska as well as the Vice-Chair of the Committee on Transport and Tourism and Responsible for the Tourism Task Force, Istvan Ujhelyi and the representatives of the European Tourism Manifesto. Addressing the Tourism Task Force of the European Parliament Mr. Pololikashvili highlighted the need to enhance integration, connectivity and technology to maximize the role of tourism in creating jobs and stimulating growth in the European Union (EU).

Europe is the world’s leading tourism destination receiving half of the world’s 1.3 billion international arrivals. In 2017, international tourism in Europe grew 8%, one percentage point above the world average, totalling 671 million tourists.

During the signing of the agreement, Mr. Pololikashvili stressed how “the best way to ensure tourism’s positive impact for its people is by working closely with the European Parliament as the representative of the people of Europe”. “Today we are becoming stronger partners in our work to make tourism, and cultural tourism in particular, a driver of prosperity, opportunity, and better livelihoods across the EU”, he added.

UNWTO and the EU Parliament will work on promoting good practices and the sharing of knowledge and experiences on the ground. The agreement coincides with 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage and is an opportunity to highlight the relevance of cultural tourism, which is an outstanding travel asset in the EU countries.

“Over the next 10 years, tourism can create more than 5 million new jobs, not least because the number of tourists is set to double to more than 2 billion. Europe must not let this opportunity pass by. Through the growth of tourism, we can offer real prospects for the new generations and boost strategic sectors of the economy, such as transport, trade, luxury goods, shipbuilding, construction, agri-foodstuffs and the cultural and creative industries” said Antonio Tajani. “We can’t just wait for this to happen by itself. We must work, including with UNWTO, to improve our competitiveness and our skills, to face the challenges of digitalisation and to promote Europe as the world’s number one tourist destination”, he added

EU tourism and the EU-China Tourism Year

The UNWTO Secretary-General met with the European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Elżbieta Bieńkowska and exchanged views with the members of the Tourism Task Force of the European Parliament and with the public and private stakeholders assembled around the European Tourism Manifesto.

On the occasion, UNWTO Secretary-General stressed the importance of working in collaboration with the European institutions on key priorities: sustainability; innovation and technology; safety and security; and education and job creation.

Addressing the EU–China Tourism Year Parliamentary Day, which celebrated the EU-China Tourism Year, Mr. Pololikashvili said “This year comes as an opportunity to make Europe the best global destination for Chinese tourists and to use tourism to increase understanding between Europe and China”.

According to the European Travel Commission, 12.4 million Chinese tourists visited the EU in 2017. With an average above one million per month and considering the prospects of growth, the impact of Chinese tourists on EU tourism is relevant factor for European tourism development and bilateral relations with China.

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Tourism

UNWTO and NEOM Launch ‘Tourism Experiences of the Future’ Challenge

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The ‘Tourism Experiences of the Future’ challenge will source innovative ideas and disruptive business models related to the tourism needs of the future, in line with growing demand for new experiences. All proposals must be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and should include the introduction or adaptation of digital and technological elements, as well as being focused at least one of the following areas:

  • Optimizing and maximizing the potential of experiential tourism
  • Harnessing the positive impact of new technology
  • Alternative business models
  • Innovative experiences

The competition is the first national initiative dedicated to identifying new companies that will lead the tourism sector’s transformation in Saudi Arabia. As well as established businesses, the competition also welcomes applications from Saudi Arabian start-ups and innovators with ideas capable of revolutionizing and inspiring tourists by presenting new ways and reasons to travel.

Applications are open until 2 November, with great interest expected, and participants must be Saudi citizens with legal capacity to enter into a contract. Successful projects will be selected based on various criteria, such as the degree of innovation, their viability and sustainability.

An Affiliate Member of UNWTO since 2019, NEOM is an accelerator of human progress and a vision of what a new future might look like. Located in northwest Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea, NEOM is ideally situated at the crossroads of the world, comprising a total area of 26,500 km². A special authority has been established to oversee NEOM, chaired by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

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Time to rethink, transform, and safely restart tourism

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Tourism “touches almost every part of our economies and societies”, enabling the historically marginalized, and “those at risk of being left behind, to benefit from development”, declared UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday, marking World Tourism Day.  

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourism could result in a more than $4 trillion loss to the global economy, according to a recent report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). 

Emergency for developing countries 

Highlighting the fact that in the first months of this year, “international tourist arrivals decreased by a staggering 95 per cent in parts of the world”, Mr. Guterres said that tourism continues to suffer enormously due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“This is a major shock for developed economies, but for developing countries, it is an emergency”, he added.  

“Climate change is also severely affecting many major tourist destinations, particularly Small Island Developing States”, his message added. There, tourism accounts for nearly 30 per cent of all economic activity.  

Tourism for inclusive growth 

Acknowledging that many millions of livelihoods are in jeopardy, Mr. Guterres said that now it is “time to rethink, transform, and safely restart tourism”. 

“With the right safeguards in place, the tourism sector can provide decent jobs, helping to build resilient, sustainable, gender-equal, inclusive economies and societies that work for everyone”, he added. 

According to the United Nations specialized agency for responsible and sustainable tourism (UNWTO), tourism is a recognized pillar of most the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), particularly Goals 1 (poverty-elimination), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work and economic growth) and 10 (to reduce inequalities). 

In his message, Mr. Guterres went on to call for targeted action and investment, towards green and sustainable tourism, “with high emitting sectors, including air and sea transport and hospitality, moving towards carbon neutrality”.  

Adding that everybody should have a say in how tourism shapes the future of our societies, the UN chief concluded that “only through inclusive decision-making can we ensure inclusive, sustainable growth, deliver on the promise of the SDGs, and transform tourism to fulfil its potential”. 

The sector could then become “an engine for prosperity, a vehicle for integration, a means to protect our planet and biodiversity, and an agent of cultural understanding between peoples”, said Mr. Guterres. 

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Tourism

Africa’s Tourism Leaders Identify Investments as Key to Sustainable Recovery

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The African Members of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) have met in Cabo Verde to strengthen their cooperation and advance plans for recovery and sustainable growth.

The 64th meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa (CAF) saw 23 countries represented on the island of Sal, with 21 Ministers of Tourism joining five Ambassadors for the high-level event. Opening the Commission meeting, the President of Cabo Verde Jorge Carlos Fonseca offered a warm welcome to UNWTO’s leadership and to all delegates. The President was joined by Cabo Verde’s Minister of Tourism and Transport, Carlos Jorge Duarte Santos, and Prime Minister Dr. Ulisses Correia e Silva in reaffirming support of the highest political level for tourism and recognition of the sector as a driver of recovery and sustainable development.

Chaired by Christine Kaseba Sata, Ambassador of Zambia to Spain and Permanent Representative to UNWTO, delegates addressed the biggest challenges standing in the way of the sector’s safe restart across the continent. Special emphasis was placed on the importance of speeding up vaccine rollouts across the continent, as well as addressing security issues that continue to have an impact on how global travellers perceive Africa as a safe tourism destination. Also on the agenda was the current level of connectivity between destinations, with improved air links the harmonization of travel protocols identified as an effective means for boosting regional tourism.

Tourism’s restart ‘essential’

Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili welcomed delegates to the Commission meeting, providing an overview of UNWTO’s work during the ongoing crisis and how this is driven by the stated priorities of its African Member States. He said. “The continent is united in its determination to use the power of tourism to drive development and opportunity for all. And with coordination and targeted investments, African tourism can finally fulfil its unique potential.”

Rebuilding trust in travel

In Cabo Verde, UNWTO Members were brought up-to-date on the development of the International Code for the Protection of Tourists, a landmark code aimed at helping restore confidence in travel. Members were also presented with an overview of the UNWTO General Programme of Work & Budget for the Period 2022-2023. Additionally, signalling a shared determination to keep moving forward even in challenging times, Members also held elections for key positions within UNWTO decision-making bodies ahead of the 24th General Assembly.

Building capacity

Running in parallel with the Commission meeting, UNWTO hosted capacity building workshops on innovation, digital marketing and investment These workshops were held ahead of the second edition of the UNWTO Global Tourism Investment Forum, opened by Prime Minister Dr. Ulisses Correia e Silva and featuring the participation of investors from Spain, Germany, Switzerland and the USA as well as public and private sector leaders from across Africa. Backing up the workshop on marketing, UNWTO also launched its new Brand Africa publication. Produced with key African Tourism Partners, the publication aims at helping destinations use effective branding to diversify and attract visitors.

Also in Cabo Verde, tourism leader celebrated the signing and approval of the UNWTO Declaration on the Future of Mobility and Sustainable Transportation, a commitment aimed at the better understanding of how investments can help make the sector greener while also encouraging greater cooperation between tourism authorities and transport providers. Concluding the Regional Commission meeting, UNWTO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Cabo Verde. The aim of the MoU is to enhance cooperation between UNWTO and the Ministry of Tourism to strengthen the country’s branding, boost tourism education initiatives, and support research into the socio-economic impact of the sustainable development of tourism across Cabo Verde.

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