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Tourism ministers set up UN committee to strengthen cooperation in wake of slowdown

Tourism ministers set up UN committee to strengthen cooperation in wake of slowdown

Tourism ministers from around the world have agreed to set up a new United Nations-backed committee to consider how to respond both to the downturn in international travel as a result of the global financial crisis and the impact of climate change.

At a summit in London yesterday, the ministers announced the establishment of a UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Resilience Committee after concluding the tourism sector needs increased collaboration, greater real-time market information and more innovation.

Enhanced public-private cooperation has also been identified as critical to the health of the tourism industry as it copes with the recent slowdown in international travel, according to a press release issued by UNWTO today. Agency partners such as Microsoft, Visa and Amadeus have agreed to support the committee.

Egyptian Tourism Minister Zohair Garrana will chair the Resilience Committee, which is tasked with monitoring and analysing macroeconomic and tourism market trends and providing an information exchange for the sector on rapid and practical responses to challenges and problems.

UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli said his Madrid-based agency would continue to help the tourism industry to weather the international downturn as best as possible.

“By the same token, we will not forget what tourism can contribute to poverty reduction in the world and to the fight against climate change,” he said. “The poor countries, some of which were already severely hit several months ago by the food crisis, will need more than ever the wealth and jobs that tourism provides for them.”

UNWTO reported this week in its regular barometer that international tourist arrival numbers slowed down during the northern summer this year – with growth slipping below 2 per cent in June, July and August – after averaging 5.7 per cent growth between January and April.

The agency added that its initial forecasts indicated that there will be an “even more modest performance” in the tourism sector in 2009 as the effects of the global financial crisis continue to take their toll, with many consumers finding that their travel budgets are being squeezed.

But overall growth for 2008 is still projected to reach about 2 per cent, thanks in part to ongoing robust growth in the Middle East and a better-than-expected performance in the Americas. Europe, the Asia-Pacific and Africa have recorded weaker results.

Between January and August this year, 642 million international arrivals were counted, a rise of 23 million on the same period last year.