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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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Greece Welcomes UNWTO Support for Sustainable Tourism Growth

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Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili was in Athens for high-level talks with political leaders, as well as high-level representatives from across the private sector. The discussions focused on the key issues of harnessing tourism as a driver of education and opportunities for all, encouraging entrepreneurship and promoting tourism investment.

Mr Pololiksahvili said: “Greece is one of the world’s true tourism leaders. They also chair the UNWTO Regional Commission for Europe, highlighting the country’s commitment to international cooperation and to sustainable and responsible tourism.” Looking forward to returning to Greece in the very near future, he added: “I am delighted to be further strengthening our partnership and look forward to working more closely with Greece to make sure as many people as possible, including rural and coastal communities, are able to enjoy the many benefits tourism can bring.”

Greece Committed to Working with UNWTO

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomed UNWTO’s visit and support of the national tourism sector and showed a sincere interest for prospects of the cooperation with the Greek tourism sector. At the same time, Minister of Tourism for Greece Harry Theocharis expressed his thanks to the UNWTO for the official visit and welcomed its readiness to work alongside Greece in promoting year-round tourism and digital transformation.

He added: “Working with UNWTO gives Greece the chance to learn from the lessons of other countries, share positive experiences and build useful partnerships in the areas of education, innovation and sustainable development.”

European context

UNWTO welcomed Greece’s commitment to sustainable tourism development, making the case for tourism as pillar of stability in uncertain times.

The visit of UNWTO to Greece comes as UNWTO assumes leadership of the global tourism sector’s response to the climate challenge. Later this week, Secretary-General Pololikashvili will address the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN). The intervention in Brussels will be made against the backdrop of the first meeting of the Tourism Task Force, with its Members to discuss the place of tourism in the European Green Deal, including both the opportunities and challenges.

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Snow and Mountain Tourism: The Links between Tourism, Sustainability and Innovation

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The 11th edition of the World Congress on Snow and Mountain Tourism will take place on 11-13 March 2020 in Andorra, under the theme “Tourism, Innovation and Sustainability”. The Congress is organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Government of Andorra and the Parish of Canillo.

Within the framework of the Year of Tourism and Rural Development that the UNWTO is celebrating in 2020, the Congress will focus on the role of mountain tourism in rural development, mainly addressing the issues of innovation, sustainability and digital transformation.

UNWTO Executive Director Manuel Butler highlighted the timeliness of the theme of the 11th Congress: “Sustainability is essential for tourism to be compatible with the fragile environment of mountain areas, while providing benefits and opportunities to communities, which gives a key role to innovation to harmonize these objectives.”

For her part, Andorra’s Minister of Tourism, Verònica Canals, underlined: “The integration of new technologies and the contribution to sustainable development are two key aspects for the tourism sector. Therefore, this year, the Congress will try to share the perspectives of professionals regarding these challenges and will allow us to know the different models that companies and entities from around the world are creating.”

Development and sustainability

Through its high-level panels, keynote speeches and thematic sessions, the Congress will explore innovative solutions for sustainable tourism, sustainable consumption, local resources and products, inclusive tourism, and the development of responsible destinations.

The event will bring together a wide range of tourism professionals and experts from more than 10 countries (Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, United States).

Presiding over the inauguration of the 11th World Congress on Snow and Mountain Tourism will be Xavier Espot Zamora, Head of Government of Andorra, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the UNWTO, and Francesc Camp Torres, Mayor of Canillo.

The Congress was born as an initiative of the World Tourism Organization, the Government of Andorra and the seven parishes that make up Andorra. Held every two years and organized by the parishes on a rotating basis, the Congress has established itself as an enduring forum for discussion of the development and sustainability of tourism in mountain areas.

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2nd Gastronomy Tourism Start-Up Competition

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After the success of the first edition, the competition has returned to identify and celebrate disruptive ideas and innovators who will lead the transformation of the sector as well as those who are making a positive impact in their local communities.

In 2019, over 300 initiatives from 84 countries were submitted. Projects ranged from new technologies, community-based tourism development initiatives, innovation software and startups focused on innovation-driven agricultural sustainability. All of them help contribute to the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For this second edition and with the support of the TUI Care Foundation, there will be two prizes. The first category will identify the initiative that is both innovative and has a sustainable social impact. The winning project will receive expert support from Basque Culinary Center (the Culinary Action! initiative) and from UNWTO. The project will be showcased at the 6th UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy. As well as receiving help in creating a work plan for the design or implementation of a pilot project, the winner will also have access to the Culinary Action! network, which offers mentoring, monitoring and the opportunity to scale-up the project using the latest digital tools available.

The other category will recognize the most disruptive gastronomy tourism startup overall. The winning company will design a pilot project alongside Basque Culinary Center and implement it with the help of its network. It will also receive economic support to cover the expenses of the acceleration process with Culinary Action!, as well as accommodation and travel, for up to 3.000 euros.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “With this competition we are identifying key companies which will shape the future for food and travel. Gastronomy continues to prove its potential as a vital opportunity to enrich the tourism offer and stimulate economic development in destinations all around the world, especially in rural communities, with the potential to scale on a global level.”

Competition co-founder, Basque Culinary Center Director Joxe Mari Aizega added: “This competition allows us to identify and support entrepreneurial talent in gastronomy. There are entrepreneurs in different parts of the world who are promoting new initiatives that take advantage of the potential of gastronomy and tourism. Likewise, it allows us to provide training and to offer tools to help entrepreneurs to develop projects with the potential to transform and have a positive impact on both companies and destinations, promoting gastronomic tourism as a tool to guarantee the sustainability of the destination.”

The call for proposals for the and UNWTO and Basque Culinary Center’s Global Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition has been launched worldwide and will close on 6 April. The finalists of the Startups category and the winners of the Social Innovation Category will be announced on 4 May 2020.

The Startups category winner winning startup will be announced between 1 and 3 June, during the 6th Edition World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism to be held in Flanders, Belgium.

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