UNWTO and Asia Pacific Ambassadors Discuss Global Tourism Issues

UNWTO and Asia Pacific Ambassadors Discuss Global Tourism Issues

Ambassadors of Asia Pacific countries met with UNWTO Secretary-General Dr. Taleb Rifai at UNWTO Headquarters in Madrid on Wednesday the 21st of March for the Annual Ambassador´s Luncheon, and discussed the main issues currently facing the tourism industry.

The meeting, held since 2000, has become a tradition for UNWTO. This year, it was attended by Ambassadors to Spain from thirteen countries in the Asia Pacific Region. The meeting was opened by Secretary-General Dr. Taleb Rifai, who outlined the three main focus areas for UNWTO in the immediate future: consumer protection, travel facilitation (visas) and airport departure taxes. These topics, among others, are key issues facing the tourism industry today, both globally and in the Asia Pacific Region.

There was a general consensus about the importance of these issues among the visiting Ambassadors, with many commenting on their importance in the context of their own countries.

Asia and the Pacific, currently the world´s second strongest region in terms of international tourist receipts, received a record number of tourist arrivals in 2011 (216 million international tourists – a 6% increase on 2010 figures). According to UNWTO projections, these numbers are expected to increase by a further 4-6% during 2012. Regionally, as well as globally, travel is a major industry which has the potential to generate millions of jobs, bring economic growth and diversification and promote regional development. As well as this, travel can be a strong contributor to poverty reduction and development in poorer parts of the world.

In a quest to highlight all of these benefits, mainstream tourism in the political and economic agendas of countries around the world, and improve the competitiveness of the sector, UNWTO has engaged in various initiatives over the past 12 months. These include the Global Leaders for Tourism Campaign, capacity building projects in the Asia and the Pacific Region (such as the UNWTO/Tianjin Training Programme on Tourism Marketing, the Tourism Statistics Capacity Building Programme in Thailand and the Philippines and the Executive Training Program in Brunei) and a number of regional studies. During 2011, special assistance was also provided to Japan following the natural disaster in March.

In the immediate future, UNWTO´s Asia Pacific Programme plans to conduct studies on domestic tourism, green tourism and mega events. As well as this, the link between tourism and a country´s happiness index will be examined in conjunction with the Kingdom of Bhutan, as an alternative mechanism for measuring tourism´s contribution to host countries.

As the world gets ready to witness 1 billion tourists crossing international boarders for the first time in 2012, despite times of economic downturn across the world, it is more important than ever to approach the sector with a unified voice and a commitment to seeing tourism achieve its full potential.

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