UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai Plead to Keep the World Opened to Tourism

“Closing borders will bring more damage than benefits to tourism around the world”, said UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary-General Taleb Rifai during ITB.

Despite challenges and uncertain times, world tourism continued to grow last year at international tourist arrivals reached a new record of 1.18 billion, up by 4.4% over the previous year. “International tourism reached new heights in 2015. The robust performance of the sector is contributing to economic growth and job creation. This is why I want to state again the utmost critical importance for countries to promote policies that foster the continued growth of tourism, including travel facilitation, human resources development and sustainability”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai.

2015 Tourism’s evolution was under the influence of various factors. While oil drop created additional purchasing power, fluctuating exchange rates had a more mixed effect. Although the decline in currencies values helped turning some destinations more attractive such as Europe or Japan, it also slowed considerably demand. “Russia is a typical example where the decline in the ruble translated into a double-digit drop in Russian travellers”, explained Rifai.

DSCF8506Another devastating issue was acts of terrorism and will request countries to provide safe and friendly travel. “We all understand the need to offer a high level of security for all travellers when visiting a country. I find that Schengen in Europe has been the best invention for the human mankind by allowing unrestricted travel and abolishing borders between countries. It is sad to see now some countries trying to limit again people’s ability to move due to safety concerns”, described Rifai.

“Safety needs to be assured. However the challenge of the security is not to close borders and consequently close ourselves to the others. We also need to be concerned about the well-being of our tourism industry. Our industry can alleviate poverty for many by generating wealth to a large number of citizens. By restricting foreign visitors movements or access to countries, politicians must understand that they will generate more damage than benefits to their own citizens by jeopardizing their future”, added Taleb Rifai.

ASEAN which now moves to ease people and goods movement is certainly moving in the right direction by dismantling hurdles for locals and travellers.

Other issues will be to strengthen the sustainable development of tourism. “We will present targets of sustainability during UNWTO next general assembly with precise benchmarks to measure the state of development of tourism for countries”, told Taleb Rifai.

UNWTO General Secretary remained however optimistic: “Despite geopolitical constraints, the habit of travel will not stop as it is part of most people’s way of life”.

(Source: ITB Berlin Daily 2)