A United Nations assembly on tourism, bringing together some 360 delegates from 112 countries, has unanimously called on the world’s leaders to place travel and tourism at the core of stimulus packages and the long-term transformation to a ‘green’ economy.
It also urged governments to remove “burdensome taxes” targeting tourism and simplify border control regulations and visa policies.
Underscoring the sector’s enormous importance for job creation, trade, infrastructure and development, the 18th session of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly, meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, stressed the essential role travel and tourism can play in post-crisis recovery from the global economic crisis.
Wrapping up the four-day session, it called for special support for developing States in capacity building, technology transfer and financing.
Calling for a moratorium on taxes on the sector at a time of economic uncertainty, it cited in particular the United Kingdom’s Airport Passenger Duty. “These taxes place a serious burden on poor countries, undermine universal efforts to promote fair tourism trade and distort markets,” it said, urging countries to reconsider them.
Border control regulations and visa policies should also be reviewed and simplified wherever possible to boost travel and increase its economic impacts.
The Assembly adopted the Astana Declaration underscoring the relevance of the Silk Road Initiative, which highlights the exceptional value and diversity of the tourism potential of the countries traversed by the ancient Silk Roads from China to Europe, many of them former Soviet states in Central Asia.
As expected, UNWTO Secretary-General ad interim Taleb Rifai was elected Secretary-General for 2010-2013.
The Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu became a new full member and UNWTO now has 161 Member States and regions and a record 409 private and public affiliate members.
Global tourism is starting to show stronger prospects for recovery from the economic crisis in 2010, with preliminary figures indicating that the slide in tourist numbers may be lessening. International arrivals declined by 4 per cent in July, compared to decreases of 10 per cent in May and 7 per cent in June.
In absolute terms, international tourist arrivals worldwide reached 500 million in the first seven months, down from 540 million in the same period of 2008. Arrivals in 2009 are currently between the levels of 2007 and 2006. The first seven months of the year generally account for roughly 57 per cent of the total annual number.