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Spotlight on Tourism Technology and Development Adventure Forum: Middle East in Cairo

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Digital solutions for tourism, innovating to ensure tourism’s contribution to sustainable development, and a tourism start-competition, took centre stage during the ‘UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventure Forum: Middle East”. Held within the 45th Meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for the Middle East, the forum gathered ministers and tourism stakeholders from the region (Cairo, Egypt, 24-25 March 2019).

The Regional Commission was held under the auspices of the Prime Minister of Egypt, H.E. Dr. Mostafa Madbouly, underscoring Egypt’s commitment to supporting tourism as one of its economic pillars.

The Tourism Tech Adventure Forum represents a platform for entrepreneurship and tourism innovation, which gathers leaders in innovation, top-level start-ups and key actors in the global innovation and digital transformation ecosystem. It is geared towards providing solutions to challenges related to digital transformation as a source of employment generation, competitiveness and sustainable development.

The Forum brought together top regional startups Eco View Resort (Jordan), Eco Nubia (Egypt), Fujtown (UAE) and Lebanese Wanderers (Lebanon) and eight national startups from Egypt, supported by RiseUp. These companies pitched their ideas in front of a 5-member jury of innovation and tourism experts.

Eco Nubia of Egypt emerged as the front-runner, represented by Ahmed Yehia, a unique experience that seeks to bring human development trainings to families and individuals is the winning start-up. Ahmed Yehia will receive a grant with StartEgypt, an institution established to inspire and support Egyptian entrepreneurs in the field of social impact enterprises, and also join the winners of the regional UNWTO Tourism Tech Adventures to be held during the upcoming UNWTO General Assembly in Saint Petersburg, Russia (September 2019), for a final pitching session.

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World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism to Analyse the Sector’s Potential

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The countdown begins for the 5th World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism to be held on 2 and 3 May in Donostia-San Sebastián, organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Basque Culinary Center (BCC). International experts will analyse and discuss the influence and capacity of gastronomy tourism to create employment and promote entrepreneurship and how to increase its potential in the future.

Stimulating employment

The Forum will explore how the most favourable frameworks can be created in order to stimulate job creation and entrepreneurship throughout the gastronomy tourism value chain. In addition, the speakers will try to identify the most relevant skills for this type of tourism, which should foster synergies among emerging companies, promote the inclusion of disadvantaged groups and take full account of digitalization. The event will bring together speakers and experts from all regions of the world, as well as internationally renowned Basque chefs such as Elena Arzak, who is a UNWTO Ambassador for Responsible Tourism and joint head chef of the restaurant Arzak, and Andoni Luis Aduriz.

In addition, the event will host the presentation of the UNWTO/BCC Guidelines for the Development of Gastronomy Tourism.

Sessions and startups

The forum will open with a high-level panel with ministers and secretaries of state from countries that have included gastronomy tourism as part of their strategies, such as Cyprus, Slovenia or Spain, among others. Under the theme, “Public policies as key ingredients to promote gastronomy tourism”, the participants will discuss the necessary political framework for the development of gastronomy tourism as well as its capacity to create jobs and promote entrepreneurship.

In addition to shedding light on the competencies needed to meet the demands of gastronomy tourists, the sessions will encourage the creation of environments that stimulate entrepreneurship, that connect emerging companies and better integrate disadvantaged groups in the labour market. Issues related to local communities or to under-represented groups, such as women, youth and persons with disabilities, will also be discussed. In addition, topics such as the digitalization of the sector will also be analysed in order to identify the new opportunities they offer to companies. 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 context, the five finalist startups of the First Global Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition, organized by the UNWTO and the BCC, will present the most innovative projects in line with the UNWTO’s strategy and the contribution of gastronomy tourism to the sustainable development goals.

The programme of the Forum is complemented by nine visits that will allow the participants to take part in different experiences related to gastronomy in the Basque Country.

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The Future of Air Transport and Development in Africa

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The First Ministerial Conference on Air Transport and Tourism in Africa co-organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Government of Cabo Verde was held in Sal Island, Cabo Verde, attracting over 20 Ministers of Tourism, Transport and Aviation from Africa.

Within the framework of both the tourism and aviation sectors, the event focussed on bringing key players together to define a unified process for sustainable development. Amongst the topics discussed were proposals that would enable the African States to maximize and balance the benefits of tourism and aviation services throughout the region and obstacles that the region currently faces.

Opening the ceremony, H.E. Jorge Carlos Fonseca, President of Cabo Verde spoke of his nation’s difficulties facing his nation, placing particular emphasis on weakened infrastructure in Cabo Verde and an overall lack of coordination within the region; adding that: “This is a very serious obstacle to the goal of making Africa a tourism destination of excellence and the first choice for people from other continents.”

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili welcomed the joint event as two naturally connected sectors, stating “this symbiotic relationship is mutually reinforcing and interdependent. This is especially true for a small island developing state such as Cabo Verde, which is almost fully dependent on air transport access.” He added that “the recent agreement between Cabo Verde Airlines and IcelandAir is a step towards an Atlantic Hub based on the island of Sal. It allows the expansion of Cabo Verde Airlines while representing an efficient public-private partnership”.

Upon closing the event, the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, H.E. Mr. Ulisses Correia e Silva, hailed the new focus on air transport and tourism as progress for the nation and stressed the importance of creating a framework for the development of air transport and tourism in Africa. The Prime Minister urged African authorities to join together to improve connectivity within the region.

The President of the ICAO Council, Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, suggested that this unique joint event between the two organizations was long overdue and has been a testimony to the new dynamics that are taking shape between tourism and air transport in Africa.

The conference concluded with the approval and adoption of the Ministerial Declaration and Action Plan on Air Transport and Tourism Development in Africa by all ministers in attendance. The Declaration outlines the direction that the signing governments will take in order to advance innovative, sustainable solutions to foster the development of air connectivity and seamless travel in the African continent while building a common understanding and response to the business imperatives through strengthened dialogue between the two sectors.

The conference saw the participation of 300 participants, including 21 Ministers of Tourism, Transport, and Aviation from 34 Member States and 29 International organisations.

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Balearic Islands Poised to Become First Tourism Destination Developed Under 2030 Agenda

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Deploying new resources and actions for the progressive adaptation of the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera) to the objectives of the 2030 Agenda, is one of the main objectives of the agreement signed between the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the IMPULSA BALEARS Foundation. Its aim is to jumpstart the process of the strategic reformulation of tourism in order to make an effective contribution to sustainable development. 

The planning and execution of new projects focused on local sustainability taking into account the tourism production and consumption patterns of the Balearic Islands, close relations with regional actors, harnessing public-private synergies, and the generation of strategic knowledge on the part of the foundation, are among the key features of this cooperation with the UNWTO, as the United Nations agency responsible for promoting tourism as a vehicle for sustainable development.

The establishment of circular economy guidelines in the hotel sector of the Islands and the identification of best practices already being implemented in this regard are among the first initiatives of the agreement. The objectives are to establish a specific approach to the relationship between hotel activity and its surrounding environment, to obtain intelligence that facilitates decision-making in the implementation of responsible consumption and production measures in line with the 2030 Agenda, and to lay down a strategic framework to activate the network of companies in the sector and other stakeholders.

The memorandum of understanding, signed by UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, and the President of IMPULSA BALEARS, Carmen Planas, will be in force until 31 December 2021.

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