Media have vital role in promoting tourism for economic development – UN
The media have a crucial role to play in putting emerging destinations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia on the global tourist map, thus helping to boost the local economies, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
“The relationship between tourism and the media is vital and complex,” UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli told the opening session of a two-day meeting underway in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, of international and local media representatives and delegates from 37 countries.
“Tourism is highly dependant on media reporting because the vast majority of travel decisions are made by people who have never seen the destination first hand for themselves,” he added.
When there is bad news or a crisis the impact on tourism can be devastating. “Tourists are scared away from destinations caught in the glare of round-the-clock disaster coverage, causing communities dependent on tourism to lose their source of livelihood,” Mr. Frangialli said.
Preparing for a crisis and improving relations with the media are two of the objectives of the conference, the fifth in a series of regional Tourcom Conferences on Strategic Communications, organized by UNWTO.
The agency has in recent years called on the media to avoid over-sensationalizing the effects of disasters.
In 2005 it called on the media to take care in covering destinations hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami so as not to slow the recovery of an important economic sector, avoiding a repeat of the “infodemic” that caused a slump in Asian tourism in 2003 when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) killed 774 people and infected more than 8,000 worldwide, the vast majority of them in China.
Last year UNWTO unveiled a new Internet portal to provide round-the-clock tracking of emergencies and avoid over-reactions to potential crises, focusing initially on the bird flu scare.
Delegates in Tbilisi are also discussing the potential of Silk Road tourism and how to better promote this legendary route so that tourists will begin to travel along the ancient trails once used by camel caravans wending their way from China to Europe.
Some 200 people are participating, including journalists from CNN, BBC World, eTurbo, international news agencies, newspapers in Europe and the United States, as well as Lonely Planet travel guide founder Tony Wheeler, on his first visit to Georgia.