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WTO Chief Foresees Positive Tourism Growth

The global tourism industry is projected to grow by 1 to 1.5 percent this year, down from an original forecast of 3 percent, due principally to the global crisis brought on by the attacks on the USA on September 11, said Francesco Frangialli, secretary-general of the World Tourism Organization (WTO).

Speaking at a dinner given by the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) in conjunction with the opening of the annual tourism exposition Philoxenia 2001 in Thessaloniki last month, Mr. Frangialli said the estimated figure is “still positive growth.”

The industry’s “great strength” and “great staying power” as demonstrated during the Gulf War and the war in Kosovo means that it should return to normal growth levels by the end of 2002, the WTO secretary-general said.

“We still expect 1 billion international arrivals in 2010 and 1.5 billion in 2020, which assumes an annual growth rate of just over 4.1 percent,” he predicted.

The WTO however does not intend to stand idle. Frangialli said the WTO secretariat has drawn up an action plan at the urging of governments and members.

The three-pronged action plan consists of setting up a crisis committee, which will meet in London to focus on safety, security and rebuilding a positive tourism image.

The WTO secretary-general also called for special assistance for countries hit hard by the current crisis, especially those in the Middle East, South Asia and parts of the eastern Mediterranean.

Andreas Andreadis, president of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises, also spoke at the dinner. He reiterated some of the points covered during a press conference the association held just prior to Philoxenia. He said he once again that the lack of a long-term tourism policy with specific targets is Greek tourism’s chronic disease. Since its creation more than a decade ago, the association has been telling government of the necessity of a long-term strategy with quantitative and qualitative targets for a country with the ambitions to play the lead on the international tourism scene. At the press conference, the association gave examples of the Cypriot and Turkish tourism’s long term development plans and their success.

Unfortunately, said Mr. Andreadis,  no commensurate measures have been taken in Greece. “Therefore, the first priority for the new tourism leadership should be to lay a tourism development scheme with clear qualitative and quantitative targets.”

To do its part, a Greek tourism strategic plan is being prepared by the association in cooperation with an international consulting company.

So far, the association says the lack of policy and strategy thus far has resulted in dealing with tourism matters superficially, in a haphazard way. Due to the lack of integral approach tourism matters are being diffused and embedded in irrelevant bills. “We hope this phenomenon will stop being repeated,” said the association’s president.

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