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Highlighting five key reasons why tourism will be a strategic pillar of any truly sustainable economic future, UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai said tourism creates jobs at a rate higher than many other sectors. Data shows that in the EU, during the last decade, the annual growth rate of employment in the tourism sector has almost always been higher than the growth rate of total employment.“Furthermore, tourism creates wealth and jobs not just in tourism, but in other sectors as well: At a time in which many economies face domestic constraints on consumption, international tourism brings not only direct export revenues, but also a very significant indirect impact through its enormous value chain,” he said.

Describing other key points he said that tourism is one of the most resilient economic sectors. Indeed, looking back on past decades, we see that international tourism decreased on only three occasions: in 2001 (-0.4%), following September 11, in 2003 (-1.-6%) due to the SARS outbreak and in 2009 (-3.8%) in the middle of one of the worst global economic crises of our time. More importantly, international tourism demand always bounced back stronger with growth rates much above the average. If tourism is important in the good times, during a crisis it is vital.

“Thirdly tourism reduces poverty and supports development. Tourism accounts for 45% of the exports of developing countries and is often one of the sectors in which developing countries enjoy a competitive advantage given their abundant natural resources. In this respect, tourism is increasingly an important and effective tool in aid for development. Fourthly, tourism is a major contributor to a more environmentally sustainable economy. A recent report by the United Nations identified tourism as one of 10 sectors that are vital to greening the global economy. With the right investment, tourism can be a lead change agent in the move to a Green Economy by driving economic growth and job creation while simultaneously improving resource efficiency, minimizing environmental degradation and raising environmental awareness among travellers. And fifthly tourism can contribute to world peace and understanding. Quoting a Spanish journalist: “travel makes us better people”, tourism brings people of all backgrounds together and has immense potential in conflict prevention and crisis resolution. At the same time, it can be essential in bringing countries back to the international economy following a conflict, guaranteeing their stability and prosperity,” said the Secretary General.



Prince Mushawevato in Livingstone Zambia

The 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly — the first ever to be held in Southern Africa — came to a conclusion on a high note on Friday, amid commitment by member states to use tourism as a driver for economic development and empowerment of communities.


After five days of high-level deliberations on issues that have posed impediments to tourism development such as pricing regimes, communication connectivity and political will, President Mugabe, his Zambian counterpart Mr Michael Sata and UNWTO secretary-general Dr Taleb Rifai committed themselves to adopting policies and technologies that make it easy for tourists to travel to any part of the world undisturbed as a long-term solution.


The issue of visa regimes and the need for a one-stop border post system gathered serious momentum, as they will determine the future of tourism.


In his closing remarks, President Mugabe said the world should move with time and adopt technology and policies that are proactive to tourism development.


“As a region we must continue to adopt new technologies that enhance visa applications and processing formalities. Furthermore there is need to improve the connectivity and accessibility of destinations.


“This is in line of key resolutions of this general assembly that recognise the close linkage between travel facilitation and tourism development as a tool to stimulate sustainable tourism demand,” said President Mugabe.


Zambian President Mr Sata said his government would do follow-ups to resolutions of the UNWTO, to ensure sustainable tourism development.


“I am also happy to note that, during this general assembly, the programme of work of the UNWTO has been adopted up to 2015. In this regard, Zambia will undertake follow-up activities in order to benefit from the decisions and recommendations of this assembly.


“I have been following with keen interest the deliberations of this general assembly on efforts to advance tourism’s sustainable growth such as visa facilitation, connectivity and accessibility,” he said. UNWTO secretary-general Dr Rifai declared that the 20th session of the general assembly was the best ever in the history of the organisation.


“This is the best UNWTO general assembly in terms of attendance and everything. We still feel that the decision to allow Zimbabwe and Zambia to co-host was correct. Those who disagree with that decision should have come and seen for themselves, the smiles on the streets of Livingstone and Victoria Falls, the welcome and the business.


“It was the decision of the entire executive council in South Korea and we feel it was very correct,’’ he said.


The UNWTO brought a major facelift to Victoria Falls with the US$6,5 million upgrading of the hospital, the US$150 million airport expansion, the tarring of the roads, new water and sewer reticulation projects, among others. Hotels and restaurants also had facelifts.


House owners had brisk business, renting out their rooms for up to US$100 per room per day, while others let out entire homes for up to US$800 per day. The 20th session of the UNWTO general assembly also approved important recommendations on accessible tourism for all.


The recommendations define the appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access on an equal basis with others, to all travel and tourism services infrastructure. Furthermore, the assembly took important decisions including the approval of UNWTO programme of work and the budget for the coming of Bienna (2014-2015), the approval of a set of recommendations on youths tourism. Also, three new member states were welcome to the organisation namely Myanmar, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Arab Emirates and 88 new affiliate members.


This is the first ever UNWTO general assembly in Southern Africa. More importantly, Zimbabwe, has been elected to chair the African Commission of the UNWTO.



(Posted 29th August 2013)


The 20th UN World Tourism Organization’s General Assembly, which is ending today after being co-hosted by Victoria Falls and Livingstone, the twin towns across the Zambezi rivers, has yesterday re-elected Dr. Taleb Rifai for a second term of office for a further four years.


Dr. Rifai has championed the cause of advancing Africa’s tourism industry and been seen as instrumental in developing mechanisms and plans to have the African continent claim a fairer share of global travel movements, which while in excess of 1 billion last year only saw some 53 million travellers, or a meager 5 percent, generated for Africa. Dr. Rifai is also credited for bringing the 2013 General Assembly meeting to Africa where Zambia and Zimbabwe co-hosted the meetings, producing some added focus on Africa’s tourism attractions.


While the UNWTO is expected to release a full documentation about the meetings’ agenda, discussions and resolutions made, notably did two announcements important for Africa come out at the earlier stage of the event. Mrs. Elsia Grandcourt, immediate former CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, was appointed as the UNWTO Regional Director for Africa followed by the election of Mr. Alain St. Ange, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, to the UNWTO Executive Committee.


Congratulations to Dr. Rifai on his re-election for another term of office and again to the Seychelles delegation for their success in securing the two positions.


(27th August 2013)


As the 20th General Assembly today moves from the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to the twin town of Livingstone in Zambia, separated by the mighty Victoria Falls of the Zambezi River, news have emerged that global travel, compared to 2012, has risen during the first six months by an unexpected 5 percent, ahead of forecasts and by some seen as a brilliant performance considering the ongoing economic woes in key markets around the world. Details provided by UNWTO to this correspondent show the following breakdown vis a vis global regions: ‘International tourist arrivals grew by 5% during the first half of 2013 compared to the same period of 2012, reaching almost 500 million, according to data just released by UNWTO. Growth was above the projection made at the beginning of the year (+3% to +4%) and is also exceeding the trend of the UNWTO long-term outlook Tourism Towards 2030 (+3.8% a year).


Destinations around the world welcomed an estimated 494 million overnight visitors in the first six months of 2013, according to the Advance Edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer released on the occasion of the UNWTO 20th General Assembly. This represents an increase of 5% or an additional 25 million international tourists compared to the same period of 2012. Growth was stronger in emerging economy destinations (+6%) than in advanced economies (+4%), a trend which has marked the sector for many years now.


The fact that international tourism grew above expectations confirms that travelling is now part of consumer patterns for an increasing number of people in both emerging and advanced economiesaid UNWTO Secretary- General, Taleb Rifai before adding: ‘This underlines the need to rightly place tourism as one of the key pillars of socio-economic development, being a leading contributor to economic growth, exports and jobs’.

In a still uneven global economic environment, results were positive in all regions and subregions, though the overall picture was mixed. Europe (+5%) performed surprisingly stronger than expected, driven by Central and Eastern Europe (+10%) and Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+6%). Asia and the Pacific (+6%) also exceeded expectations, boosted by South-East Asia (+12%) and South Asia (+7%). On the other hand, results were weaker than anticipated in the Americas (+2%), as South America and the Caribbean lagged behind.


The first semester normally accounts for some 45% of the total arrivals count of the year (the Northern hemisphere high season months of July and August fall into the second semester). Growth is expected to continue in the second half of 2013 but at a gradually slower pace. UNWTO forecasts 2013 to end at 4% or slightly above, thus exceeding the initial estimate for the year.


Zimbabwe, Zambia and the United Nations World Tourism Organization signed a Trilateral Host Agreement in Victoria Falls on Wednesday, marking the official countdown to the 20th UNWTO Session of the General Assembly slated for August next year.
Victoria Falls and Livingstone will co-host the historic event that comes to Southern Africa for the first time. This becomes the second time Africa hosts the event after Senegal did so at its inauguration. Zimbabwe and Zambia won the right to co-host the meeting at a meeting held in Spain last year.

Source Atta