13, June:The Tourism and Culture Minister Smt. Ambika Soni has said that tourism industry needs to guard itself against volatile economic trends and unforeseen natural disasters to maintain high growth rates in the sector.
She was addressing the two day 83rd Session of the Executive Council meeting of United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) at Jeju Islands in South Korea today. India is currently Chairperson of the Executive Council of the world body.
Here is the full text of Smt. Ambika Soni’s speech.
“It is a great privilege for me to address this 83rd Session of the Executive Council Meeting in this beautiful island city of Jeju. At the outset, on behalf of all the members of the Executive Council and in my own capacity as Chairperson of the Executive Council, I would like to express sincere gratitude and deep appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Korea for hosting this Executive Council Meeting. I would also like to thank members of the Executive Council for reposing their confidence in India and electing it as the Chairperson of the Executive Council at the last General Assembly Session of UNWTO held in Cartagena in November 2007.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with anguish when I speak of the world having witnessed two devastating natural calamities recently (i) cyclone in Myanmar and (ii) earthquake in China. They caused unprecedented sorrow and misery in terms of loss of lives and destruction of wealth. I would like to on all our behalf express our deepest condolences to the governments of the Peoples of Republic of China and to the Government of Myanmar, and to all the bereaved families.
Ladies and Gentlemen, World Tourism has enjoyed its fourth consecutive year of growth in 2007. International tourist arrivals grew by 6% during this period to reach a record number of nearly 900 million. While all regions in the world registered increase in tourist arrivals, the Middle East region registered the highest increase. Asia and Pacific region too registered sustained growth in tourist traffic, thanks mainly to continuing favourable economic environment. The situation in South Asia too was very promising with tourist traffic registering an 8% growth. But concerns are now being expressed as to how tourism can possibly maintain high growth rates in the backdrop of increasing oil prices and economic recession. It is against these volatile economic trends and unforeseen natural disasters that tourism industry needs to guard itself. While I urge the UNWTO to work in close coordination with international organizations that are working on Early Warning Systems and Disaster Management in order to prevent loss of life and essential infrastructure, we have to find ways & methods to offset this high cost of oil – the last was $138 per barrel!!
Ladies and gentlemen, a climate of safety and security is also very important for the growth of tourism industry. Incidents of harassment of tourists and terrorist attacks, even though they may be isolated, can severely undermine tourism. All the effort that goes into image building of tourism gets washed out because of these incidents. I wish to emphasize here today the importance of cooperation amongst all the UNWTO member countries on sharing of information on terrorists’ movement across borders and cooperation amongst police forces against criminal nexus networks. In the spirit of cooperation, may I urge all the member countries to consciously resist “pressure” for issuing of Advisories immediately following untoward incidents of crime or terrorism because such incidents are unpredictable in any region. Moreover, Travel Advisories by major source countries would have an adverse impact on the livelihood of the local populations in countries whose economies are wholly dependant on tourism.
Ladies and gentlemen, the worldwide debate on Climate Change has taken into account the long term impact of tourism on environment. Notwithstanding that tourism contributes to climate change even if it is only 5%, we all agreed at the UNWTO General Assembly Cartegana in November 2007 the need for a collective and consensual strategy to tackle climate change. I appreciate the UNWTO efforts, in particular, that of General Secretary Mr. Francisco Frangilli, in presenting a balanced approach at the UNFCCC in Bali last December. It is important that UNWTO continues to work in close consultation with UNFCCC on this very pertinent subject that concerns the global community today.
As we move further, we should examine various ways of helping developing economies to adapt to climate change challenges by removing obstacles that come in the way of their development. Since critical technologies, especially the Clean Development Mechanisms that would help to adapt to climate change are in the domain of the private sector it is not so easy for developing countries to access them. As discussed at the last Cartegena General Assembly Meeting, we should collectively aim at supporting developing economies obtain clean technologies through financial assistance. May I urge the UNWTO to take a lead in this regard.
Ladies and gentlemen, UNWTO has taken up on itself the responsibility to fulfill the objectives of the UN Millennium Development Goals, one of which is eradication of poverty through tourism. You are all aware that the UNWTO programme ‘STEP-Foundation’ is addressing the issue of poverty reduction and employment generation through sustainable tourism. Popular opinion that development-oriented poverty reduction programmes are environmentally unfriendly is proving to be a misnomer. Our own experience in India has shown that tourism pursued in a responsible manner could actually help in environmental sustainability. Rural tourism, Adventure tourism, Eco tourism, Wild life tourism etc all pursued in a responsible manner will conserve the environment in a big way. By contributing to creation of jobs at the local level it prevents migration of people from rural to urban centres, thus limiting carbon footprint. It also helps in promoting and preserving traditional art and craft in villages which otherwise would disappear in the face of modernization and globalization. It is through these activities that we hope to make tourism inclusive. We should, therefore, emphasize on pursuit of responsible tourism globally.
Ladies and Gentlemen, It is extremely important for all of us to address severe manpower shortage in the hospitality sector. I believe the UNWTO should take a lead in organizing adequate training programmes for capacity building in member States wherever possible.
Ladies and gentlemen, UNWTO has invited inputs from member States to prepare the programme of work for 2010-2011. I would like to place on record here our deep appreciation and gratitude to the Secretary General, Mr. Francisco Frangialli and his team for their untiring efforts in drawing up a new programme of work. Inputs were also invited by UNWTO to study the feasibility of creating legal instruments to deal with the issue of facilitation of tourist travel. You will all agree that seamless travel across continents will not only help tourism grow further but also encourage people to people contacts for lasting global harmony.
I would like to thank once again the Government of Republic of Korea for hosting this Executive Council Meeting”.
As reported, India was unanimously elected as the Chairman of the Executive Council at the 82nd meeting of the UNWTO Executive Council held at Cartagena de Indias, Colombia in November 2007 for a period of one year. The Executive Council meets between sessions of the UN General Assembly and takes all administrative and technical decisions as may be necessary. The decisions taken by the Executive Council are reported to the Assembly at its following session, for approval.
After getting elected as the Chairman of the Executive Council, India has worked proactively to highlight various tourism issues in the Organization. India participated in the Meeting of the Programme Committee of the UNWTO. Inputs on identification of priority areas and preferred means of delivery for the Programme of Work for 2010-2011 were provided by India. Some of the areas which were identified by India as areas of priority are as follows:
a) Education-Human Resource Development
b) Promotion of Public Private Partnership
c) Environmental Issues and Tourism
d) New Tourism Product Development/ Innovation in Tourism (Though the Questionnaire has labeled these as two separate priority areas but we feel that these two areas are interlinked and could therefore be taken as one priority area)
e) Collecting and Disseminating worldwide tourism documentation
f) Promotion of the Image and Importance of Tourism
g) Travel facilitation and Travel Advisories