EXCELTUR Closing Remarks “Tourism a key driver of economic growth and employment: Policies to enhance competitiveness”


“Tourism a key driver of economic growth and employment:

Policies to enhance competitiveness”

Madrid, January 17, 2012

Closing Remarks by Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General

World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)


His Majesty, King Juan Carlos I

Mr. Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission

Mr. José Manuel Soria, Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism of Spain

Mr Luis Eduardo Cortés, Chairman of the Executive Committee of IFEMA

Mr. Sebastián Escarrer, outgoing Chairman of Exceltur

Mr. Fernando Conte, incoming Chairman of Exceltur

Honourable Ministers

Ladies and Gentleman

Dear Friends


Tourism in uncertain times

  • As we close an intense day of debate and exchange of ideas the diagnosis became clear – we will continue to live with uncertain economic scenery, unpredictable geopolitical developments and many other events beyond our control.  
  • Furthermore, as unemployment in advanced economies is not expected to return to pre-crisis levels before 2015, the tragedy of millions of people without a job will continue to be of priority concern.   
  • Companies will face investment constrains, increased taxation namely on our sector, and in particular on air travel, and an increasingly fickle consumer driven by price concerns.  
  • At the same time, and in spite of pressing economic issues, we cannot risk forgetting our long-term objectives of sustainable development; of achieving growth in a responsible and shared manner.
  • Neither can we dismiss the role of government –  as a sector, if one conclusion was obvious from today’s discussion, was that tourism needs a state policy; tourism needs a national pact that brings together all levels of governments, public and private sectors and the civil society, tourism needs to be placed at the heart of political and economic decision taking.
  • And this is not because we think better of tourism than of other sectors, but because we are, my friends, in a sector that has proven, like not many others, it can contribute to the goals of economic growth, job creation and fairer development.


Dear friends


  • Uncertain times require innovative solutions, collaborative strategies, flexibility and leadership.  
  • For the tourism sector this means acting in five key areas:
  1. To advance the use of technology in making the best of new market opportunities namely in
  1. market monitoring – knowing your client is a cutting edge advantage but even more so in uncertain times;
  1. marketing and promotion – in today’s society led by the culture of screens those who are not at the verge of communication technologies are not in the market ; and
  1. green growth strategies – building a new green tourism economy that allows to improve profitability while respecting the environment (good for the planet and good for business). To debate this I invite you all to join us this year as we celebrate World Tourism Day in Spain under the theme “Tourism and Sustainable Energy - Powering Sustainable Development.
  1. To understand new trend and new markets: The world as changed. In 1980, 64% of all international tourist arrivals were concentrated in Europe; in 2011 this share was down to 51%. In the last decade, emerging economies have been leading the growth in outbound travel. Annual growth rates in expenditure on travel abroad from Brazil, India or China are 20 times those of traditional markets. This is the new tourism map in which destinations and companies need to operate.
  1. To build a new age of public and private sector cooperation: tourism can prosper without both; it is time to o strengthen the basis of cooperation and create new structures and strategies that move public-private partnerships into the next level;
  1. To open borders: In spite of the great strides made so far in facilitating travel in many regions of the world, of which Europe is no doubt example, there is still room for considerable progress, namely considering the possibilities to use technology in improving visa application and processing formalities well as the time of visa issuance.Travel facilitation is closely interlinked with tourism development and can be a tool to stimulate demand. This objective is of particular relevance in a moment when countries around the world look to grow their economies but cannot make use of fiscal incentives or public investment.
  1. To place tourism as a priority:  I am confident that many governments around the world will increasingly recognize tourism’s proven contribution to job creation, exports and economic growth. A sector that due to its multiplier effects brings wealth and welfare millions working in tourism but also to many others working in agriculture, transport, construction or handicrafts.


Dear Friends

  • In 2011, 980 million people crossed international borders generating over US$ 1 trillion in export earnings; this year will reach the historic mark of 1 billion international tourists and by 2030 1.8 billion people are expected to cross international borders for tourism purposes.
  • Another 4 billion people travel every year within their own countries.
  • But beyond the numbers, there are many different stories; stories of better living conditions; of new business opportunities, of innovation or of regeneration of rural areas which once started to be abandoned and are now rediscovered.  
  • This is tourism; and I am confident that in spite of the many news of doom and gloom, our sector will find in its capacity to adapt and to innovate, as well as in growing supportive public policies, the necessary arguments to continue prospering  and thrive as one of the most promising and viable options for economic growth and development.


Thank you