Opening ITB 2014, UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, highlighted the challenges to be addressed by the global tourism sector in order to keep advancing as one of the world’s leading economic activities and one of the few sectors producing positive news around the world.
On the back of better than expected international tourism results in 2013 and the positive expectations for 2014 and beyond, “tourism has become one of the fastest growing economic sectors, a sector that drives global growth and development, creates millions of jobs, spurs exports and investment and transforms lives,” Rifai said.
But these forecasts are not to be taken for granted, with Rifai adding, “To ensure our sector remains competitive, we must address several challenges, which we have set as a priorities at UNWTO, committed to transform these into five major opportunities.”
On a policy level, UNWTO’s message to this year’s ITB underscores the need to improve travel facilitation, considering that about two-thirds of the world´s population to obtain a visa before departure. Air connectivity is another critical area, considering the clear linkages between aviation and tourism, and the fact that over 50% of the world’s international tourists reach their destination by air, while many countries still have disjointed policies between the two sectors. Finally, UNWTO calls for balanced taxation policies on tourism.
These policy areas require for tourism to become a national policy and not a sectoral one, Rifai said, underscoring that cross-cutting government policies and public-private partnerships are the necessary precursor to any sort of tourism development.
“We have before us an opportunity to create new and innovative coalitions for tourism growth; models of co-operation that embrace the tourism public sector and private sectors, but also the civil society and other players coming from areas such as technology, arts, gastronomy or culture.”
The ITB 2014 opening address of the UNWTO Secretary-General recalled that “alongside growth comes responsibility.” With the economic growth, job creation and development opportunities that tourism brings, comes the over-arching challenge of sustainability,” he concluded.