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Cultural Tourism Sustains Communities and Living Heritage

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The third cultural tourism conference (3-5 December) organized jointly between the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) concluded today in Istanbul, Turkey. Participants declared their support for cultural tourism as a driver for safeguarding living heritage, catalyzing creativity in cities, and spreading tourism’s socioeconomic benefits to all.

Organized with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey under the theme ‘for the Benefit of All’, the conference explored the potential of the tourism and culture partnership, along with new trends in technology and visitor management, to bring the widest range of benefits to visitors and host communities while safeguarding cultural values.

A key conclusion from the conference was the need for a clear and strong link between tourism, culture and local community stakeholders. Cultural tourism policies and strategies must consider the perspectives and interests of local communities, who can also assist governance bodies in balancing tourism development with heritage conservation and safeguarding. Channelling tourism revenues into cultural preservation and community development was identified as a key governance challenge.

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca of Malta addressed the conference at its opening, reinforcing that: “In today’s world, tourism diplomacy is becoming more important to foster understanding, and culture is key to achieving this”.

UNESCO Deputy Director-General Xing Qu affirmed tourism’s essential role, stating: “Tourism provides a tremendous opportunity to support local economic development, while breaking down barriers between people. Harnessing creativity and technological innovation, as well as safeguarding heritage is essential for promoting responsible and sustainable tourism to support and unify communities for years to come.”

“Culture is one of the drivers of tourism growth, so protecting cultural heritage and promoting tourism for sustainable development are part of the same equation. That 30-plus ministers from around the world are gathered here proves the place of culture in tourism,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili opening the event.

These sentiments were echoed by Turkey’s culture and tourism minister Mehmet Ersoy. “The culture and tourism partnership provides a framework for public-private cooperation, education, investments and sustainability,” Minister Ersoy added.

In a debate moderated by the BBC’s Rajan Datar, the more than 30 ministers present concluded that tourism and culture are indivisible and must work together so that tourism does not suffocate cultural heritage and its benefits for visitors and locals. However, the main challenge is to spread cultural tourism’s attractiveness beyond established sites whilst managing large visitor numbers.

The first session of the conference focused on cultural tourism’s potential to help cities transform into more sustainable and creative environments and destinations. It ended in agreement that the creative and cultural sectors can strengthen and provide innovation in cultural tourism, forging links that turn tourism into a tool to safeguard tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

The second day of the event was given over to the twin influence of responsible tourism and technological advances in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. It was agreed that innovation should be strengthened for better management, promotion and preservation of heritage, as well as to make cultural tourism accessible to all.

During the event, five leading Turkish tourism companies signed the Private Sector Commitment to the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, boosting the efforts of Turkish industry leaders to ensure sustainable development of the sector.

The 3rd UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture will produce a declaration, to be made available soon, outlining the cross-sector commitment of all participants to reinforcing the tourism and culture partnership as an enabler for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda of the United Nations. The next edition of the conference is scheduled to take place in Kyoto, Japan in 2019.

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Kingdom of Morocco to Host Next WRO General Assembly in 2021

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The Kingdom of Morocco has been officially chosen as the host of the 24th Session of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), to be held in 2021.

At the conclusion of the 23rd General Assembly in St Petersburg, Member States of the United Nations specialized agency for tourism, were asked to choose between Morocco, Kenya and the Philippines. All three Member States had presented their candidatures over the preceding days, highlighting their commitment to accessibility and sustainability and for using tourism as a driver for job creation and economic growth for all.

The 24th Session of the General Assembly will be held in the city of Marrakesh in 2021, with the exact dates to be confirmed.

UNWTO General-Secretary Zurab Pololikashvili said: “I offer my warmest congratulations to Morocco. They are a long-standing ally of UNWTO and at this General Assembly they clearly demonstrated how the Kingdom has embraced tourism as a driver of positive change over the past few decades. Morocco also showed it has the infrastructure and the commitment necessary to host the most important high-level even for the global tourism sector. At the same time, I thank both Kenya and the Philippines for their candidatures. Both presented exceptionally strong cases.”

For the first time at a UNWTO General Assembly, Member States used an anonymous electronic voting system, with one vote per Member State. This switch away from paper ballots brings UNWTO in line with other United Nations agencies, further emphasising the Organization’s firm commitment to becoming an integral part of the wider UN system.

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Tourism has ‘Life-Changing Potential’

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Tourism Ministers from around the world have gathered at the 23d Session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in St Petersburg. The future of tourism jobs in a changing world, and the way tourism can help provide education for all, has featured prominently among ministerial debates.

Held as UNWTO celebrates its Year of Jobs and Education, the High-Level Debate saw leaders and representatives from more than 100 countries discuss the biggest challenges facing the tourism sector as it works to fulfill its potential as one of the world’s main sources of employment.

Supporting 1 in 10 jobs worldwide and a leading employer of women, youth and people living in rural or marginalized communities, tourism has been recognized as a key pillar of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Agenda. However, global demographic shifts, new technology and urbanization are all having a significant impact on both work and education in the tourism sector, and the opportunities and challenges posed by all three of these mega-trends were the subject of lively discussion in St Petersburg.

During the debate, which was moderated by UNWTO’s media partner CNN International, Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “We represent one of the major drivers of global development, a leading source of employment and ongoing training, transforming the lives of millions around the world. Tourism must be ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow and this ministerial debate demonstrates that we recognize that tourism jobs need new and different skills over the coming years.”

The debate formed part of the 23rd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Held every two years, the General Assembly brings together the world leaders, tourism ministers and key representatives from the public and private sectors and is the most important body of UNWTO, the United Nations specialized agency for responsible, sustainable and inclusive tourism.

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African Tourism Leaders Meet in Saint Petersburg to Plot Future Growth of Continent’s Tourism Sector

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Leaders from across Africa have met in Saint Petersburg ahead of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to discuss the key issues facing the continent as it looks to grow its tourism sector and harness it as a key driver of economic development and social transformation.

Held in the historic Tauride Palace, the 62nd meeting of the UNWTO’s Regional Commission for Africa (CAF) came on the back of the latest Barometer from the United Nations specialized agency for sustainable and responsible tourism. This most recent data shows that international tourist arrivals to African destinations grew by 3% during the first six months of the year when compared with 2018. In particular, North African destinations continue to bounce back from recent difficulties, enjoying a 10% increase in arrivals for the six months.

The key focus of the CAF meeting was the UNWTO’s 2030 Agenda for Africa. This blueprint for the future of African tourism was launched after the UNWTO’s African Member States requested help in drawing up plans for growing and managing tourism and in making the sector a central driver of economic growth and sustainable development.

Addressing the meeting, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Africa has everything to position itself as a global tourism leader. 60% of Africans are under the age of 25. And African cities are real hubs of innovation, with entrepreneurs and innovators finding new ways to manage how we travel. With a concerted approach we can expect international tourist arrivals to Africa to reach 135 million by 2030. Together, we can ensure that this is good news for everyone. More tourists mean more jobs, more schools and greater protection for cultural and natural heritage.”

The African delegates will remain in St Petersburg for the 23rd session of the UNWTO’s General Assembly, the most important high-level event for the global tourism sector. Held every two years, this General Assembly will focus on tourism’s role in the global Sustainable Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, with a particular emphasis on the sector’s role in education, job creation and tackling climate change.

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