The head of the United Nations tourism organization is calling on the industry to strengthen its resilience, stimulate sustainable growth and contribute to the green economy as it leaves behind one of its most difficult years.
The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forecasts a growth of 3 to 4 per cent in international tourism this year, possibly higher in emerging regions, such as Asia. The rise follows a 4 per cent drop in tourism in 2009 and a loss in earnings of 6 per cent.
“Though there are positive signs emerging from the global economy, we all recognize that recovery is still weak, uneven, easily reversible and that many downside risks remain,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai at today’s opening of the ITB Travel Trade Show in Berlin, the world’s largest tourism fair.
One year after the industry issued the UNWTO Roadmap to Recovery – a framework to help the tourism sector respond to the global economic crisis while staying on track with climate and development imperatives – countries that were quick to implement mitigation measures have seen the greatest recovery, Mr. Rifai noted.
Calling unemployment the most common issue of concern at a time when “our global economic order and our global ecological balance are both challenged,” Mr. Rifai said the tourism industry can rapidly create jobs, particularly for youth and women.
He noted that in the longer term, the emphasis should not be just on any job, but on “skilled jobs, decent work and green economy jobs.”
UNWTO has increasingly spoken out about the tourism industry’s commitment to the transformation to the green economy. In October, the organization issued a warning that rising sea levels and melting snow caps could threaten lucrative travel spots, particularly in poorer countries.
In today’s speech, Mr. Rifai called on the industry to bridge the poverty gap between the developed and developing countries to contribute more fairly to globalization and global equity.
His message echoes that of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who last month said that social justice based on the values of fairness, equality and respect for diversity is more important than ever amid the global financial and economic crisis.
Mr. Rifai also called for a retooling of the industry’s business models and development of more comprehensive public policies.
“We cannot build a meaningful public-private partnership without strong, healthy and identifiable national public policies on travel and tourism,” Mr. Rifai said.