UNWTO Secretary General calls for Unity

UNTWO Secretary General, Taleb Rifai advocated an optimistic outlook in combination with innovative transformation for recovery, greener business practices and sustainable growth of the tourist industry in his speech at the 2010 ITB Travel Trade Show in Berlin, Germany. He asked that all regard 2010 and future years ‘not as mere years of recovery, but as years of real transformation.”

2009 was one of the worst years for the travel industry, with a 4% drop in international tourism and a 6% drop in earnings, although domestic tourism held steady. In the last quarter of 2009 travel began to pick up, raising the numbers for the year. This growth continued into the first months of 2010, a recovery much greater than anticipated, according to the IMF.

Secretary General Rifai explained that the UNTWO estimates a 3-4% growth in tourist arrivals and a 1-2 % growth of receipts from these arrivals in 2010. Noting that most of the growth would be from emerging Asian nations such as China, he reviewed the lessons that can be learned from the myriad difficulties of 2009 and the directions to move towards for the sustainable and resilient growth of tourism.

He spoke of the obligation and challenge facing their industry to uphold the MDGs, or Millenium Development Goals, by placing tourism first in adapting to a green economy and meeting the needs of developing countries most benefited by tourism.

Pointing out that international economic and energetic crisis must be handled globally, Mr Rifai asked the travel sector to find international and local methods to lessen the effects of any future challenges. Listing factors not caused by but impacting tourism, such as natural disasters, climate change, and economic shifts, he stressed the importance of unity within the travel sector and the need to enlist public officials to create policies to assuage the consequences of outside events on the tourism.

Noting that the tourism industry quickly and easily creates jobs, he reminded the attendees of their responsibility to find new ways to resist contributing to a soft economy of unskilled labor and to promote long term, skilled positions in the tourist trade. Emphasizing the ubiquitous problem of unemployment, Mr Rifai asked all in attendance to consider methods for contributing to global economic equity by fighting the global poverty gap.

Remarking upon the structural weaknesses in the public and private realm of the industry, Mr Rifai called for the implementation and development of a ground breaking public-private partnership combining business models with visionary public policies. He explained that creating growth is easier than sustaining it, and stressed the importance of developing more extensive indicators to measure of the benefits of tourism to socio-economic growth.