International tourism in Europe continues to grow above expectations and despite the region’s on-going economic constrains, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). In 2013, international tourist arrivals grew by five percent, an additional 29 million as compared to 2012, raising the total to 563 million, more than half of the world’s total.
“Despite a fragile global economic recovery, particularly in the Eurozone, Europe continues to excel,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, addressing the recent 57th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Europe in Baku, Azerbaijan.
“Many reasons are behind such positive performance, particularly growing collaboration and innovation, issues which are fundamental for Europe to ensure tourism continues to play a central role in the region’s economic growth and job creation,” he added.
European Tourism representatives gathered at the 57th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Europe and identified enhanced international cooperation, innovation, private-public partnerships and accessibility as main priorities to ensure the sector’s future competitiveness.
“The international tourism policy agenda can only be effectively developed via intensive and international cooperation among tourism stakeholders,” said Abulfas Garayev, Minister of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan.
“The development of international tourism products, the worldwide promotion of open skies policies, the facilitation of international investments in tourism and the harmonization of tourism standards and legislation around the globe are just some examples of the vast tourism agenda requiring continuous support from, and interaction between, national governments,” Mr. Garayev said.
The main short-term challenges and priorities for European Tourism identified by UNWTO Member States include travel facilitation, connectivity, taxation, clustering and private-public partnerships, and the creation of favorable business environments to stimulate investment and innovation.
These policy priorities set the immediate tourism roadmap for Europe, according to the UNWTO.
The Commission concluded that as global tourism becomes increasingly competitive, Europe must take the lead on key issues such as innovation, accessible and inclusive tourism, and new models of cooperation that effectively bring together the diverse stakeholders involved in delivering tourism experiences.