World Tourism Council vows reform

The United Nations World Tourism
Organisation has vowed to concentrate on reform to enable it to address
effectively the challenges of the tourism industry.

At its executive council session in
Argentina between 6 and 8 June the council said that there had been substantial
change since it was formed in 1975. That year, there were 222 million tourists,
75 per cent of whom visited 15 mostly-developed countries.

By 2009, said officials, there were
880 million tourists spread evenly between developed and developing nations.
Other elements that had altered the industry during those 34 years included
climate issues, economic uncertainty and a widening of the gap between developed
and developing countries.

Chairman of the council, Carlos
Ricardo Benavides, said that he welcomed the leading role of the organisation
in the economic crisis. He also pointed to ongoing restructuring as a positive
force for the future.

A report was given by secretary
general Taleb Rifai. In a presentation, Mr. Rifai discussed the state of the
industry, current challenges and the steps the organisation was taking in order
to strengthen itself

“Though 2009 was one of the most
difficult years for the tourism industry, the sector proved to be solid and
resisted better than many others, proving its value in terms of job creation
and income generation,” he told the executive council.

He also said that there had been
meetings with governments during which there had been discussions about the
importance of tourism at a national level. Greater collaboration between member
countries was also urged, with the development of new guidelines for
international cooperation seen as key to the future.

The tourism organisation’s next big
meeting takes place in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, between 16 and 18 November,
where parliamentarians, local authorities and the council will discuss the
importance of tourism and the interaction between its development and the
important challenges that lie on the horizon.

It will be the seventh international
tourism forum of this kind, with previous forums taking place in Spain, Brazil,
Indonesia, Panama, Tunisia and Philippines since its inception in 1995,
explained the World Tourism Organisation in a statement.

“It will be devoted mainly to the
study of the major issues currently facing the sector: taking advantage of the
opportunities opened up by the global economic crisis through tourism; poverty
alleviation; and analysing how tourism contributes to global and local economic
growth, with a view to making harmonious tourism development possible and
strengthening its resilience to crises.

“The Forum is also aimed at
enabling parliamentarians and local authorities to better define their role in
the promotion and development of tourism and to identify the instruments that
should be put into place in order to encourage partnership,” said the
organisation.

The executive council estimated that in 2009, US$852
billion was generated in export earnings and it forecast a growth in tourist
arrivals of between 3 and 4 per cent during 2010.