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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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Guatemala partners with UNWTO to launch Sustainable Tourism Observatory

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has welcomed Guatemala into its International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO). The Central American country becomes the 26th member of the global network which is committed to the systematic collection of data on the impacts of tourism at the destination level.

The new Observatory is located in the city of La Antigua Guatemala, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a leading tourism destination. Led by the Instituto Guatemalteco de Turismo (INGUAT) and supported by the Guatemalan government, the Observatory will periodically collect data and scientific evidence as it monitors the effect tourism has on the historic city. This data will then be used to assess how tourism can best be used to help drive sustainable growth and development.

“We warmly welcome Antigua´s entry into our global network of observatories. This demonstrates Guatemala’s strong commitment to tourism as a force for good,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “The Observatory will generate more and better evidence of the economic, environmental and social impacts that tourism has on Antigua and the surrounding area. This will facilitate decision-making so that tourism can continue to drive sustainable development.”

The establishment of the new Observatory was announced during the 64th meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for the Americas, also held in Antigua (15-16 May). Moving ahead, the Observatory will work with an interdisciplinary group of local experts. This commitment to the input of local stakeholders is a key feature of the INSTO Observatories around the world.

Jorge Mario Chajón, Director General of INGUAT, adds: “This project will have a real multiplier effect, maximizing the economic as well as the social benefits that tourism brings. We welcome the opportunity to partner with UNWTO and work together to make tourism a key part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

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Leaders Discuss Role of Tourism in Asia and Pacific’s Development Future

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Tourism has significant potential to contribute to Asia and the Pacific’s long-term growth prospects through infrastructure development and job creation. But governments should work to ensure the industry grows in a socially and environmentally sustainable way, according to participants at a high-level Asian Development Bank (ADB) seminar.

The Governors’ Seminar, titled “The Role of Tourism for Sustainable Development,” at the 52nd Annual Meeting of ADB’s Board of Governors in Nadi, Fiji, featured as panelists Japan Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mr. Taro Aso; Indonesia Finance Minister Ms. Sri Mulyani Indrawati; Fiji Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Civil Service, and Communications Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum; Italy’s Director-General for International Financial Relations, Ministry of Economy and Finance Ms. Gelsomina Vigliotti; and ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao.

In 2018, 343 million international tourist arrivals and $390 billion in international tourist spending went to Asia and the Pacific. International visitors to Asia have risen by 65% between 2010 and 2018 with key Asian destinations being the People’s Republic of China; Thailand; Japan; Hong Kong, China; and Malaysia. Asian tourists are also an increasing driver of global tourism with higher incomes and a rapidly growing middle class seeking experiences abroad. Globally, international tourist arrivals are expected to reach 2.44 billion by 2030, a 75% increase over 2018, with Asia and the Pacific projected to account for a third of this number.

Tourism plays a large role in the Asian economy. Spending on hotels and airline tickets was $92 billion in 2018 with an estimated 78 million new jobs created. The indirect impact such as through tourism-related investment on new hotels or airplane purchases was larger at $2.94 trillion, creating an estimated 180 million jobs. In Fiji, tourism contributed 14% of the local economy with the indirect impacts accounting for 40% of gross domestic product.

Seminar discussions highlighted several points. Tourism should be encouraged as a key contributor to investment, employment, and tax revenues through investment in both infrastructure and people. For example, world-class airports and airport staff in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur contribute to the vitality of tourism in Thailand and Malaysia. With land being a key component of sustainable tourism, clear and effective sustainable land use regulations are needed.

Tourism creates millions of jobs, notably for women, young people, and those in remote rural areas. However, workers in tourism need the right skills and good working conditions. The Indian state of Kerala, for example, has a program that has trained some 650 residents of poor communities for jobs in local hotels.

Tourism can damage the environment which, over time, reduces visitors and revenues. Governments and the tourism industry can work together to avoid this. In Fiji, the government imposes a 10% tax on tourism-related businesses which funds climate change mitigation projects.

Similarly, cultural heritage needs protection, which could include controlling numbers of visitors to monuments or creating fiscal incentives for businesses to restore historical buildings. To protect the Angkor Wat temple, the Cambodian government created a dedicated authority to better manage the site and maximize the benefit to the local community.

Last, tourism should foster mutual understanding, peace, and safety among people of different backgrounds. Smart travel practices including data sharing is one way to do this. Currently, 16 Asian countries participate in an electronic visa scheme that has increased efficiency at border controls and boosted security. 

At the seminar, Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum stressed the importance of ensuring resilience to both natural hazards and the longer-term issue of climate change. “The infrastructure that goes to the hotels—the electricity cables, the water, the sewers, etc.—the government needs to build resilience on that. The other aspect of the environment and climate change is to do with the oceans … all countries need to make a consolidated effort in respect of climate change.” He also pointed to the need to ensure that as much of the value of the tourist spending as possible is retained within the host country by using local products and services.

Ms. Indrawati addressed the issue of ensuring that local culture and heritage are protected as tourist destinations attract visitors from other countries with different attitudes and mores. “This is exactly always the tradeoff between, on the one hand, to be a global player, in global supply chains, and how you are going to maintain the authenticity as well as the participation of your locals,” she said. Work to develop local skills to ensure tourism-inspired jobs are high quality is also key.

Panelists raised the importance of good infrastructure to support tourists and, through improved water and wastewater systems, for example, to protect the environment. “There should be development of tourist infrastructure both in quantity and quality,” said Mr. Aso. Such infrastructure needs to be disaster-resilient so that when disasters strike, countries do not lose out twice—from missing out on tourism income and having to rebuild their infrastructure and economies.

Ms. Vigliotti noted the common challenges faced by tourist destinations, whether in Europe or Asia and the Pacific. “The challenges for all the tourist destinations … are the same. You need connectivity, you need good infrastructure, and you need good maintenance.” She also stressed the importance of governance and a policy center that defines and implements a strategy.

“Asia and the Pacific has some of the world’s most beautiful natural landscapes and unique cultural monuments,” Mr. Nakao said. “As tourism continues to expand rapidly, it will be important to pursue sustainable tourism that protects the environment such as forests and coral reefs, preserves local cultures, and benefits local communities.”

ADB has supported the development of sustainable tourism in the region through financing for infrastructure, regional connectivity, and environmental protection. In the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region, ADB has provided assistance for transport, waste management, and skills training and planning, which have improved access and environments in secondary tourism destinations. Elsewhere, ADB has, for example, helped protect natural lakes and local livelihoods in the Kyrgyz Republic and Mongolia, supported tourism planning in the Federated States of Micronesia and Myanmar, and worked to improve transport, infrastructure, and utilities to ensure sustainable tourism in Bhutan and India.

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Colombia hosts UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventure: Scaling Up

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The ‘UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventure: Scaling Up´ organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) with the support of the Colombian government, gathered 700 participants from around the world. Start-ups, academia, corporations, investors, business incubators and accelerators, discussed with the public sector how to strengthen and scale innovative business ideas for sustainable tourism development. 

The event served as a backdrop for the first Colombian platform for entrepreneurship and tourism innovation, which aims at creating synergies between relevant stakeholders, exchanging success stories and fostering a venture capital investment culture. The forum also served as a space for seed and growth stage investors to share insights on how to face the challenges of scaling up, or how to approach and engage with investors. Amadeus Ventures, Bluebox, Angel Ventures and Dux Capital are among the firms present.

Prior to the Forum, 15 Colombian startups participated in a Startup MasterClass. UNWTO partner IE Business School offered feedback on their pitches, business plans and sustainability focus, and provided overall advice on how to attract investment. This hands-on event was followed by an actual start up competition with the top prize going to James Figueroa from GDX Travel. The second prize went to Eduardo Maldonado from Tourbitz and the third to Miguel Antonio Paez from Escappy Travel.

The winner will be given access to collaborate at the Wayra Coworking Space in the capital Bogotá, including personalized mentoring from the Wayra Colombia team. The winner will also have the opportunity to once more present the project pitch in the framework of the 23rd Meeting of the UNWTO General Assembly (9-13 September 2019, Saint Petersburg, Russia).

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