‘Tourism remains strategic pillar of economic future’

Posted: January 31, 2013 in travel & tourism

taleb rifai unwto secretary  generalHighlighting five key reasons why tourism will be a strategic pillar of any truly sustainable economic future, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General, Dr Taleb Rifai said tourism creates jobs at a rate higher than many other sectors.

According to Rifai, available data shows that in the European Union (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.  He was speaking at the New Economy Forum on Tourism in the new “New Economy.”

“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 per cent), following September 11, in 2003 (-1.-6 per cent) due to the SARS outbreak and in 2009 (-3.8 per cent) 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 per cent 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.

Meanwhile, the United Nations specialized agency for tourism has said it expects a staggering 1.8 billion international tourists by 2030.

“In 1950, 25 million tourists travelled internationally. Last year that number hit one billion: one billion international tourists travelling the world in a single year. Around five billion more travelled domestically within their own countries.  At UNWTO we forecast this number to continue to rise. We expect a staggering 1.8 billion international tourists by 2030. Never before have so many people travelled to so many places.  Few places on the planet have escaped the curiosity of the traveller and few are now unreachable,” said Taleb Rifai.

He added, “These tourists generate over US$ 1 trillion in exports for the countries they visits, close to 6% of the world’s exports of goods and services, and 30 per cent of exports if we consider services alone. One in every 12 jobs worldwide is connected to the tourism sector.”

Our world has been fundamentally transformed over the past decades. It is commonplace to say we now live in a globalized world – a complex, interlocking and independent network across which flows of goods, capital, ideas, information and now people move faster than ever before.

This process of globalization has behind it a number of forces which are not simply outcomes of a more globalized world, but its very drivers. First: information technology and telecommunications.  The “IT Revolution” has allowed us to communicate and process information in digital form and in real time like never before; quite simply transforming our lives.

Second: migratory trends. The “Age of Mobility” has seen millions travelling in their own countries and across borders in pursuit of opportunity. The world is fast becoming urban, with over half the world’s population now living in urban areas. By 2030 this number will swell to almost 5 billion.

These are two long-term trends that have not been diminished by the global economic crisis. In fact, the opportunities created by technology and mobility have not slowed and suggest the world economy can again be set on a prosperous path. But there is yet another powerful “mega-trend” of globalization  at play in this new world which often goes unnoticed, despite the fact that it involves nearly the entire  global population and brings our world to a screeching halt whenever it is disrupted:  Travel & Tourism.

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