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Tourism: A Global Force For Growth And Development

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has met in Baku, Azerbaijan, for the 110th Session of its Executive Council (16-18 June). At the meeting, Member States endorsed the Organization’s progress and future plans, as outlined Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, and warmly welcomed the participation of the United States as it explores the possibility of rejoining UNWTO.

With international tourist arrivals having grown by 4% over the first quarter of 2019, following on from 6% growth in 2018, the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism has met in Azerbaijan for the 110th Session of its Executive Council. The Council brings UNWTO Member States together for top-level talks on the direction of the global tourism sector.

“It is an immense pleasure to be in the dynamic city of Baku for the 110th Session of our Executive Council,” Mr. Pololikashvili said. “The Executive Council gives UNWTO Member States a thorough overview of UNWTO’s activities and progress over the preceding year, and makes key recommendations on the path ahead. Our time in Baku offered us the perfect opportunity to discuss the challenges presented by the ongoing rise in tourism numbers, including through the creation of more and better jobs and through driving gender equality. I thank all Member States for their commitment to UNWTO’s mandate and I thank the United States for their presence and openness to the possibility of rejoining and working with us to make tourism a driver of growth and equality.”

Mr. Fuad Nagiyev, Head of the State Tourism Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan, expressed his support for UNWTO’s mission, noting that it was “an honour” for the country to have been chosen to host the 110th Session of the Executive Council.

“UNWTO events, including this Executive Council, are great platforms for promoting the potential of tourism and for forming and developing good working relations with both UNWTO and its Member States,” Mr Nagiyev added.

Fulfilling UNWTO’s vision of tourism as a force for good

Member States warmly welcomed the progress made as UNWTO works to fulfill the current management vision. More specifically, the Five Priorities underpinning Secretary-General Pololikashvili’s mandate include making tourism smarter through embracing innovation and digital transformation and growing competition and entrepreneurship within the sector. At the same time, making tourism a leading source of more and better jobs, and a top provider of education and training is another of UNWTO’s priorities.

Member States meeting in Baku were informed of progress achieved to make tourism more inclusive, seamless and a means of safeguarding and promoting social and cultural heritage and environmental sustainability. Additionally, the progress made in newly launched ‘UNWTO Agenda for Africa 2030’ was welcomed. The bold four-year plan is aimed at realizing the potential of tourism for Africa, with a special focus on tourism as a driver of poverty alleviation, job creation and professional development.

Institutional streamlining and financial sustainability

The Executive Council also endorsed the latest positive financial results and structural reforms implemented under the Secretary-General, which reflect the ongoing drive to guarantee the economic sustainability of the Organization.

At the institutional level, UNWTO reiterated its commitment to diversity and transparency. The Organization is moving ahead in the creation of a new Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics. This Convention brings UNWTO in line with most other UN agencies, and will specifically provide Member States with clear guidelines for making their national tourism sectors drivers of growth and inclusivity..

The meeting in Baku was celebrated as UNWTO prepares for the 23rd Session of its General Assembly, due to be held in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation, in September. Held every two years, the General Assembly is the most important high-level meeting of global Tourism Ministers and the private sector in the world.

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Tourism

Promoting ‘Brand Africa’ to Realize the Continent’s Tourism Potential

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UNWTO’s African Member States will work together to establish a new narrative for tourism across the continent. To better realize tourism’s potential to drive recovery, UNWTO and its Members will also work with the African Union and the private sector to promote the continent to new global audiences through positive, people-centred storytelling and effective branding.

With tourism recognized as an essential pillar of sustainable and inclusive development for the continent, UNWTO welcomed high-level delegates to the first Regional Conference on Strengthening Brand Africa. The conference featured the participation of the political leadership of host country Namibia, alongside public and private sector leaders from across the continent.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili welcomed the common determination to rethink as well as restart tourism. “African destinations must take the lead in celebrating and promoting the continent’s vibrant culture, youthful energy and entrepreneur spirit, and its rich gastronomy”, he said.  

Windhoek Pledge puts people first

On the back of a series of workshops and a Ministerial Think Tank, UNWTO’s African Member States unanimously endorsed the Windhoek Pledge on Advocating Brand Africa. Under the terms of the Windhoek Pledge, Members will engage both public and private sector stakeholders as well as local communities to build a new, inspiring narrative for tourism across the continent. They will identify positive, human-centred stories, and through strengthened partnerships with the media, showcase them to the world, reaching new and diverse tourism source markets.

Over the coming weeks, UNWTO will work with all signatories to create a common roadmap towards establishing Brand Africa. This will include establishing common values and goals and identifying funding needs and opportunities as well as providing branding toolkits for destinations, including guidelines and recommendations and training and capacity building in market intelligence, digital marketing and data management.

Bilateral meetings show support for tourism

Alongside the conference, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, held high-level talks on the restart of tourism with President of Namibia Hage Geingob, as well as with the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and with the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga

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New report on single-use plastic products aims to advance sustainability in travel and tourism

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The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), launch a major new report today, addressing the complex issue of single-use plastic products within Travel & Tourism.

‘Rethinking Single-Use Plastic Products in Travel & Tourism’ launches as countries around the world begin to reopen, and the Travel & Tourism sector starts to show signs of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic which has been devastating.

The report is a first step to mapping single-use plastic products across the Travel & Tourism value chain, identifying hotspots for environmental leakages, and providing practical and strategic recommendations for businesses and policymakers.

It is intended to help stakeholders take collective steps towards coordinated actions and policies that drive a shift towards reduce and reuse models, in line with circularity principles, as well as current and future waste infrastructures.

The report’s recommendations include redefining unnecessary single-use plastic products in the context of one’s own business; giving contractual preference to suppliers of reusable products; proactively planning procedures that avoid a return to single-use plastic products in the event of disease outbreaks; supporting research and innovation in product design and service models that decrease the use of plastic items, and revising policies and quality standards with waste reduction, and circularity in mind.

Virginia Messina, Senior Vice President and Acting CEO, WTTC said: “WTTC is proud to release this important high-level report for the sector, focusing on sustainability and reducing waste from single-use plastic products in Travel & Tourism.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the sustainability agenda with businesses and policymakers now putting an even stronger focus on it. As a growing priority, businesses are expected to continue to reduce single-use plastic products waste for the future and drive circularity to protect not only our people, but importantly, our planet.

“It is also becoming clear that consumers are making more conscious choices, and increasingly supporting businesses with sustainability front of mind.”

Single-use plastic products can be a threat to the environment and human health and without deliberate effort across the sector, Travel & Tourism can and will contribute significantly to the issue.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had both negative and positive impacts on single-use plastics pollution.

The demand for single-use plastics items has increased with safety being a high concern among tourists and take-away services being on the rise. According to the Thailand Environment Institute, plastic waste has increased from 1,500 tons to a staggering 6,300 tons per day, owing to soaring home deliveries of food.

However, the pandemic has also catalysed consumer demand for green tourism experiences around the world, with a 2019 global study finding 82% of respondents are aware of plastic waste and are already taking practical actions to tackle pollution.

The report recognises that global solutions are required to address corporate concerns about the use of single-use plastic products. It aims to support informed decision making based on the potential impacts of trade-offs and of unintended burden shifting when considering the transition to sustainable alternatives.

Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director of the Economy Division, UNEP said:

“Travel & Tourism has a key role to play in addressing the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, as well as making circularity in the use of plastics a reality.

The advent of COVID-19 and consequent proliferation of single-use plastic products has added urgency to the crises. With this report, we hope to encourage stakeholders in this industry to come together to address this multifaceted challenge. Only by doing so, can we ensure meaningful and durable change.”

With around 90 percent of ocean plastic derived from land-based sources and the annual damage of plastics to marine ecosystems amounting to US$13 billion per year, proactively addressing the challenge of plastics within the Travel & Tourism sector is key.

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UNWTO and Greece to Collaborate on Maritime Tourism Research Centre

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UNWTO is to collaborate with the Greek Ministry of Tourism in establishing a first research station dedicated to measuring the sustainable development of coastal and maritime tourism across the Mediterranean.

The new monitoring centre will be based at the University of the Aegean in Greece. From here, experts will capture and collate measurement data and analysis relating to the environmental, economic, and social impact of tourism.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Coastal and Maritime tourism is one of the most important economic drivers within the Mediterranean basin. This new research centre can provide key data to guide the restart and future development of the sector, ensuring it fulfils its potential to provide opportunity for coastal communities and to protect and celebrate natural and cultural heritage.”

The United Nations specialized agency and the Ministry of Tourism confirmed their collaboration on the initiative during the UNWTO High-Level Conference on Coastal and Maritime Tourism, held in Athens and co-hosted by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and Celebrity Cruises.

The Tourism Minister of Greece Harry Theoharis said: “I express my immense gratitude for UNWTO’s support in this endeavour. The Research Center will soon become a reference point for the study and protection of our coasts and seas.”

Pierfrancesco Vago, Global Chairman of CLIA and Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises added: “CLIA is pleased to support the UNWTO research and monitoring centre on sustainability and coastal maritime tourism in the Mediterranean. As part of the cruise industry’s commitment to responsible travel, we are pursuing carbon neutral cruising in Europe by 2050, and we work closely with cruise destinations and coastal communities to support economic growth in a sustainable manner.

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