South Africa's President participates in the UNWTO/WTTC Global Campaign

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), who are spearheading the Global Leaders for Tourism Campaign, have been courting government leaders around the world with Open Letters which invite them to join the campaign. The main component behind the campaign is the stance that tourism is a vital part of the global economy, driving not only employment opportunities but also the push towards a Green Economy.

Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, was one of many government leaders who recently received an Open Letter from UNWTO and WTTC. He agreed to join the campaign and responded with a statement that stressed the social and economic importance of tourism in South Africa. During his statement, Zuma discussed his joy at being the first African nation to join the campaign, particularly due to the importance that he, and his fellow officials, place on the tourism industry.

South African government officials have identified tourism as one of the six main components for what they’re calling their New Growth Path and they’ve publically discussed the many ways in which they believe that tourism can reduce unemployment and make a positive addition to their overall economy. Zuma was quick to point out that tourism does not simply create jobs in the travel and tourism industry. He pointed to its potential to also have a positive impact on manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, financial services and other peripheral industries. He was also very optimistic about the potential that increased tourism has for those who own and operate small businesses and he pointed out that historical data strongly suggests that tourism is an industry which creates jobs and business opportunities for those that he referred to as “disadvantaged people.”

Tourism is definitely one of South Africa's quickest growing industries. An estimated 8 million tourists from around the globe visit annually. President Zuma acknowledged this and in addition to the economic impact, he also spoke about the cultural significance of tourism, especially in such large numbers, and how it has the potential to help bring about a more peaceful world. He expressed his belief that tourism as a whole is one of the most powerful tools available for helping to bring about world stability and peace and, furthermore, that it is an “industry which promotes people to people contacts and enhances understanding, tolerance and respect within nations and also across cultures and borders.”

South Africa's decision to join the Global Leaders for Tourism campaign was widely discussed by the attendees of the World Economic Forum, held in Cape Town, South Africa, on May 4th - 6th, 2011. David Scowsil, the President and CEO of the WTTC, was one of many in attendance. He discussed with the media how pleased he is that President Zuma has such a strong understanding of the impact that tourism can have, both locally and globally. He pointed out that Zuma is the first African leader to sign what is being referred to as the Golden Book. His optimism at this helping to lead to future African leadership signatures was quite clear.

Taleb D. Rifai, the Secretary General of UNWTO, also spoke with the media. In his statement he mentioned that Mexico had been the first nation to receive an Open Letter and that they had also signed onto the campaign. He went on to praise the leaders of Mexico and South Africa by referring to them as “examples to the world.”

The UNWTO and WTTC is continuously seeking out new member nations, sending out Open Letters which discuss basic positive economic facts tied in with tourism, while urging the government leaders of the world to help increase tourism's overall political recognition. They summarize their position as being, "to position tourism as a driver of economic growth and development, and thus a priority in the global agenda."