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Digital Transformation & Innovation Take Spotlight on World Tourism Day 2018

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World Tourism Day 2018 was observed in Budapest, Hungary with the official celebration focusing on the digital transformation in tourism, a World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) priority. The event examined how investment in new technology provides the sector with opportunities for innovation.

Introducing a new seminar-based format, the official celebration provided crucial insights into the actors and initiatives leading the digital transformation of the tourism sector and aimed at providing participants with concrete and actionable objectives to take away.

During the official celebration, the 20 semi-finalists of the 1st UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition gave pitches to investors and tourism leaders of their innovative projects with potential to disrupt the sector. They were selected from over 3000 applicants from 132 countries. The competition was launched by UNWTO and Spanish tourism leader Globalia to find projects that harness innovation and can change the way we travel.

“UNWTO is proud to have positioned, for the first time, tourism in the global innovation agenda – where it deserves to be because of its economic weight and importance. This is only possible by bringing the private and public sectors together in a meaningful way, and providing opportunities to share ideas, like we have done today”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili to conclude the event.

Mr. Pololikashvili was joined for the opening ceremony by Hungary’s Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Csaba Domotor and Gloria Guevara, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council, who emphasized the role of technological solutions such as biometric data capture in ensuring safe, seamless and sustainable travel.

Key amongst the conference conclusions was that political support is central to putting tourism at the centre of the global innovation and digital agenda. The event harboured this sentiment, attracting the participation of ministers from several countries and high-level political representatives at all levels of government, from local to national, as well as tourism’s main entrepreneurs, investors and innovators.

Other World Tourism Day celebrations also took place worldwide today, helping to mark the 38th year the observance day that has taken place to give visibility to the tourism sector’s role in international economic growth and development.

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International Tourist Arrivals Reach 1.4 billion Two Years Ahead of Forecasts

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International tourist arrivals grew 6% in 2018, totalling 1.4 billion according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. UNWTO’s long term forecast issued in 2010 indicated the 1.4 billion mark would be reached in 2020, yet the remarkable growth of international arrivals in recent years has brought it two years ahead.

International tourist arrivals up 6% in 2018

UNWTO estimates that worldwide international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased 6% to 1.4 billion in 2018, clearly above the 3.7% growth registered in the global economy.

In relative terms, the Middle East (+10%), Africa (+7%), Asia and the Pacific and Europe (both at +6%) led growth in 2018. Arrivals to the Americas were below the world average (+3%).

“The growth of tourism in recent years confirms that the sector is today one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and development. It is our responsibility to manage it in a sustainable manner and translate this expansion into real benefits for all countries, and particularly, to all local communities, creating opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship and leaving no one behind” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “This is why UNWTO is focussing 2019 on education, skills and job creation.”, he added.

UNWTO’s long-term forecast published in 2010 predicted the 1.4 billion mark of international tourist arrivals for 2020. Yet stronger economic growth, more affordable air travel, technological changes, new businesses models and greater visa facilitation around the word have accelerated growth in recent years.

Results by region

International tourist arrivals in Europe reached 713 million in 2018, a notable 6% increase over an exceptionally strong 2017. Growth was driven by Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+7%), Central and Eastern Europe (+6%) and Western Europe (+6%). Results in Northern Europe were flat due to the weakness of arrivals to the United Kingdom.

Asia and the Pacific (+6%) recorded 343 million international tourist arrivals in 2018. Arrivals in South-East Asia grew 7%, followed by North-East Asia (+6%) and South Asia (+5%). Oceania showed more moderate growth at +3%.

The Americas (+3%) welcomed 217 million international arrivals in 2018, with mixed results across destinations. Growth was led by North America (+4%), and followed by South America (+3%), while Central America and the Caribbean (both -2%) reached very mixed results, the latter reflecting the impact of the September 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Data from Africa points to a 7% increase in 2018 (North Africa at +10% and Sub-Saharan +6%), reaching an estimated 67 million arrivals.

The Middle East (+10%) showed solid results last year consolidating its 2017 recovery, with international tourist arrivals reaching 64 million.

Growth expected to return to historical trends in 2019

Based on current trends, economic prospects and the UNWTO Confidence Index, UNWTO forecasts international arrivals to grow 3% to 4% next year, more in line with historic growth trends.

As a general backdrop, the stability of fuel prices tends to translate into affordable air travel while air connectivity continues to improve in many destinations, facilitating the diversification of source markets. Trends also show strong outbound travel from emerging markets, especially India and Russia but also from smaller Asian and Arab source markets.

At the same time, the global economic slowdown, the uncertainty related to the Brexit, as well as geopolitical and trade tensions may prompt a “wait and see” attitude among investors and travellers.

Overall, 2019 is expected to see the consolidation among consumers of emerging trends such as the quest for ‘travel to change and to show’, ‘the pursuit of healthy options’ such as walking, wellness and sports tourism, ‘multigenerational travel’ as a result of demographic changes and more responsible travel.

“Digitalisation, new business models, more affordable travel and societal changes are expected to continue shaping our sector, so both destination and companies need to adapt if they want to remain competitive”, added Pololikashvili.

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New Report on Health Tourism

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), together with the European Travel Commission (ETC) launched a new report on health tourism. Part of their joint research programme, the study is the first attempt to set a coherent conceptualization of health tourism and define the motivations behind travelers looking for health-related services.

Health, wellness and medical tourism have grown exponentially in recent years to become increasingly relevant in many destinations. Health tourism is an emerging, global, complex and rapidly changing segment that needs to be better understood by destinations willing to leverage opportunities and better address challenges.

‘Exploring Health Tourism’ proposes a comprehensive taxonomy with a consistent terminology to define and describe the intricate system of travelling for health purposes and provides a practical toolkit for National Tourism Organizations (NTOs) and Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) wanting to develop health tourism.

As defined in the report, health tourism covers those types of tourism which have as a primary motivation the contribution to physical, mental and/or spiritual health through medical and wellness-based activities.

The report sheds light on the factors shaping health tourism such as technological developments, personal health, data protection and urbanization. It also explores the market, the demand and the supply of health tourism and provides examples of marketing management. Finally, the study proposes a set of recommendations ranging from improved data collection and more accurate measurement to more accessible and sustainable health tourism calling for further partnerships.

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Finalists of the 15th UNWTO Awards Announced

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has announced the finalists to win the 15th UNWTO Awards, which recognize inspirational projects having made an invaluable contribution to advance sustainable tourism. The nominees are praised for contributing to advance the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Initiatives from Canada, Colombia, India, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the Philippines made it to the list of finalists for 2019’s UNWTO Awards, ranging from community-based tourism development and innovation-driven nature conservation to heritage tourism and promotion of accessible tourism.

For this edition the jury committee was made up of eight tourism experts from the public sector, private companies and universities:

  1. Ms. Diana Robino, Global Tourism Partnerships Lead, Mastercard
  2. Prof. Dimitrios Buhalis, Head of Department Tourism and Hospitality, Bournemouth University, United Kingdom (Affiliate Member)
  3. Mr. Eduardo Santander, Executive Director/CEO, European Travel Commission
  4. Mr. Istvan Ujhelyi, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, European Parliament
  5. Mr. Jae-sung Rhee, CEO, Seoul Tourism Organization (Affiliate Member)
  6. Ms. Judy Kepher-Gona, Founder & Director, Sustainable Travel and Tourism Agenda – STTA Kenya
  7. Professor Kaye Chon, Dean and Chair Professor Walter Kwok Foundation Professor in International Hospitality Management School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Affiliate Member)
  8. Ms. Sally Davey, Director, Industry Affairs, Trip Advisor (Affiliate Member)

The UNWTO Awards recognize the contribution of public and private institutions, as well as NGOs, in the development of a more competitive, responsible and sustainable tourism sector that works towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its 17 SDGs.

For the 15th year of the UNWTO Awards competition, a total of 190 applications from 71 countries were received in the three categories: Public Policy and Governance, Enterprises, and Non-Governmental Organizations.

List of Finalists (in alphabetical order):

UNWTO Award in Public Policy and Governance

  1. Tourism and Peace Programme, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Colombia
  2. Love San Sebastián, Live Donostia, San Sebastian Turismo & Convention Bureau, Spain
  3. Sustainability Whale Watching Charter, SPET – Turismo De Tenerife, Spain

UNWTO Award in Enterprises

  1. Community Impact by V Resorts, V Resorts (under the aegis of Bliss Inns Pvt. Ltd.), India
  2. Fighting food waste at sea: 4GOODFOOD programme, Costa Crociere S.p.A., Italy
  3. Masungi Georeserve: Innovations for Conservation, Masungi Georeserve Foundation, The Philippines

UNWTO Award in Non-Governmental Organizations

  1. Embracing Our Potential, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Canada
  2. Amuse Project, Fundacion Once, Spain
  3. Treadright Foundation Heritage Initiative, Treadright Foundation, Switzerland
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