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Governments and Investors Share Knowledge on Tourism Technology

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photo: UNWTO

The UNWTO/WTM Ministers’ Summit, held yesterday by World Travel Market and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), was well received by participants from government and the private sector for its more dynamic new format leading to more concrete takeaways around this year’s theme: Investment in Tourism Technology.

This year, the UNWTO/WTM Ministers’ Summit held at World Travel Market, one of the world’s biggest tourism trade show (6 November 2018), focused on investment in tourism technology with a novel format. For the first time the summit featured a panel of private sector leaders alongside a panel of ministers, sparking an open and useful exchange of ideas and opinions on how to channel private capital into innovative tourism technologies.

This meant that tourism ministers and high-level representatives from countries including Bahrain, Bulgaria, Egypt, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Uganda, Uruguay and the UK were able to directly reflect on and respond to the opinions voiced by the leading tourism and technology investment funds involved in the panel, such as Alibaba Capital Partners, Atomico and Vynn Capital.

“Without the support of the key tourism stakeholders, notably governments, corporations and investors, development and implementation of innovative products is not possible. Today’s discussions shed light on the influential role of both sectors as well as the need for stronger public-private partnerships”, said UNWTO Deputy Secretary-General Jaime Cabal opening the event.

A common sentiment amongst the panel of private sector entrepreneurs was that disruption leads change in the tourism sector, but regulation can be preventative to obtaining the attractive investment conditions needed to support disruptive new business ventures. It was suggested that regulation should be fixed in order to give clear guidelines to investors who wish to put private capital into new technology.

Several technology investors highlighted the need to narrow the opportunity cost and clear up the governance barriers for innovation in tourism. “It needs to be easy for start-ups to grow and expand – if rules change too quickly, investors will hesitate to invest,” Katherine Grass of Thayer Ventures told ministers.

Lio Chen, Managing Director at the Travel & Hospitality Center of Innovation at venture capital firm Plug and Play, called for larger technology companies to engage with start-ups to boost ideas, human resources and investment. “I ask ministers to incentivize the top five corporations in their country to work with start-ups and foster innovation,” he said.

On the subject of regulation, Michael Ellis, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, said: “It’s a question of balance, and it’s a challenge to get that right, especially in technology.” He also urged ministers to boost sustainability and help tackle the world’s climate-related problems, such as rising carbon emissions.

Education was also highlighted as an element making investments more attractive. “Education allows technology to root into societies and contribute to making tourism more inclusive for communities,” said Benjamin Liberoff, Vice-Minister of Tourism of Uruguay.

“We have brought the public and private sector together in a unique format, and hope it will deliver real change in the sector. As tourism grows, then technology will play a key role,” said Simon Press, Senior Exhibitions Director of WTM London.

Moderated by Richard Quest of CNN International, the summit contributed to UNWTO’s ongoing priority to place tourism at the centre of the global innovation agenda.

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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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San Sebastián to Take World Gastronomy Tourism Spotlight in May

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It was announced today that Donostia will host the 5th edition of the UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism, a forum organized by the UNWTO and the BCC, an Affiliate Member of the UNWTO.

The event, which grows exponentially this year thanks to the support of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism of Spain, the Basque Government, the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and the City of San Sebastián, will be held at the Kursaal Congress Centre on 2-3 May 2019.

This UNWTO Forum has been held since 2015 and is hosted by the BCC every two years. The central theme of this edition will be job creation and the promotion of entrepreneurship in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This stems from the fact that tourism is a huge source of employment and its multiplier effect has a knock-on effect on other sectors, such as gastronomy.

Objective of the Forum

The selection of San Sebastián as the venue for the Forum for a third year confirms the international success of its efforts to feature high-quality gastronomy tourism offerings. A series of presentations by experts from different disciplines and countries will address the current and future knowledge and skills demanded by the gastronomy tourism sector. In addition, the latest advances in the creation of the necessary framework to stimulate entrepreneurship will be presented, connecting the different ecosystems with the startups that are part of the value chain of gastronomy tourism.

In this regard, during the Forum, the winner of the First Global Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition will be announced. The Competition is an initiative of the UNWTO and BCC whose objective is to identify innovation projects that will transform the Gastronomy Tourism sector in the near future.

In addition to shedding light on the competencies needed to meet the demands of gastro-tourists, the Forum will also foster the creation of environments that stimulate entrepreneurship, connect startups and better integrate disadvantaged groups in the labour market. In addition, topics such as the digitalization of the sector will also have a place in the Forum programme, which will analyse the new opportunities it offers to companies.

The UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism was created with the aim of promoting the exchange of experiences between experts in tourism and gastronomy, to identify good practices and to promote gastronomy tourism as a factor of development of countries. In recent years, gastronomy has become an essential element in order to get to know the culture and way of life of a place. After being held in San Sebastián twice, and subsequently in Peru and Thailand, it returns to its place of origin, now more consolidated and with greater institutional support than ever.

San Sebastián at the centre of world gastronomy tourism in May

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, highlighted the ability of gastronomy tourism to contribute to the creation of employment and new opportunities throughout the territory as well as to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Gastronomy tourism is culture and the soul of a destination. By supporting innovation, job creation and entrepreneurship, we are promoting development by valuing its culture and its people.”

Joxe Mari Aizega, General Manager of the Basque Culinary Center, pointed out: “Gastronomy tourism promotes local culture and products and is a source of employment and economic development. To ensure quality employment in the sector, we must take into account its main actors, we must promote knowledge through training and we must create an ecosystem that stimulates entrepreneurship, considering also the new opportunities offered by digitalization. Today, tourism is fundamental for gastronomy.”

In the words of Isabel María Oliver, Secretary of State for Tourism of the Government of Spain: “Gastronomy favours local economic development and sustainability while maintaining traditions and preserving the authenticity of our destinations, and is, in addition, a de-seasonalizing factor.  This is why, at the State Secretariat for Tourism we are working to further promote Spanish gastronomic heritage as an essential part of the Spain’s tourism offerings.”

Alfredo Retortillo, Councillor for Tourism, Trade and Consumer Affairs of the Basque Government, underlined: “Gastronomy tourism is not merely about food, but rather it encompasses a multitude of cultural practices and incorporates ethical values and sustainability. Enjoying it also means getting to know and savouring the landscape, the history of the country, the values and the cultural heritage of the tourism destination. And, undoubtedly, food and wine are among the great attractions offered by the Basque Country.”

The Deputy for Culture, Tourism, Youth and Sports of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, Denis Itxaso, for his part, said: “Being a global leader among gastronomy destinations requires commitment to being at this type of events, where the top chefs and the best practices of gastronomy tourism come together, and being open to discovering new and good experiences, and to creating a fusion between our traditions and techniques and those of others. That gives the Basque cuisine a cosmopolitan character and adaptability, two fundamental characteristics when we talk about tourism markets.”

In the words of Ernesto Gasco, First Vice-Mayor of the San Sebastián: “The World Tourism Organization’s choice to hold its Gastronomy Forum in San Sebastián reaffirms the international positioning of our city in the world of gastronomy. Our chefs, who once again have recently revalidated their constellation of Michelin stars, the quality of our products and kitchens, and our pintxos, rated as the best gastronomic experience in the world by users of a popular travel page… attest to the position San Sebastián occupies in the world of gastronomy. All this is complemented by the important work carried out by the Basque Culinary Center and the international platform represented by the San Sebastián Gastronomika event. We are, without a doubt, an epicentre of gastronomy. This event is another step forward, a definitive endorsement for San Sebastián and its prestigious cuisine to be known all over the world”.

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