Ensuring safe and seamless travel, enhancing the opportunities brought by technology and accelerating the shift towards a more sustainable sector are the priorities for the sector, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, opening the 50th edition of ITB Berlin on Tuesday, March 8.
Referring to the issue of tourism and security, he said: “Global challenges demand global solutions and tourism development greatly depends upon our collective capacity to promote safe, secure and seamless travel. We need to cooperate, not isolate”.
Mr. Rifai called for the full integration of tourism into the national and international security agendas and alerted that “the security challenges we face today should not prompt us to build new walls” and that “enhancing security and enabling more seamless travel should always go hand-in-hand”.
On the issue of technology and innovation, the UNWTO Secretary-General said: “We need to better understand the impact of technology on our sector and maximize the new opportunities it creates to improve the competitiveness of destinations, make travel safer and easier, and manage our natural resources more effectively.”
Calling upon the tourism sector to embrace the sustainability agenda, Mr Rifai said it was time to “step up the efforts to advance policies and business strategies that ensure the contribution of the tourism sector to the Sustainable Development Goals”.
“Climate change mitigation, effective resource management, poverty reduction and inclusive growth need to be at the center of tourism development. We must make it clear that economic growth and sustainability are not at odds”, he added.
Addressing these priorities can only be achieved through increased international cooperation and cross-cutting national tourism policies. “Tourism’s ability to effectively support the economic, social and environmental foundations of many nations has raised the need for the sector to play a bigger role in national development, particularly at the highest levels of political decision-making“, Mr Rifai said.
Mr Rifai recalled that despite a slow and uneven global economic recovery, growing geopolitical challenges, health scares and security concerns, 2015 was another record year for international tourism.
International tourist arrivals grew by 4.4 percent to reach 1.2 billion (1.184 million), meaning 50 million more tourists travelled the world in 2015 than in 2014.
“Looking ahead, UNWTO is confident that despite increased volatility and uncertainty, 2016 will bring another year of growth to our sector, with an estimated increase of 4 percent”, he said.