“Travel and tourism, in essence, is an industry of peace,” said Francesco Bandarin, Assistant Director-General for Culture, UNESCO, on Monday. Speaking at the UNWTO/UNESCO Tourism and Culture Conference which opened here on Monday, he said UNESCO and UNWTO were united in their “commitment to tackling challenges of poverty and development through sustainable tourism”.
The two-day conference opened under the auspices of His Highness Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmood al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers.
The Sultanate, represented by the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, is hosting the event in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization and the UNESCO. A total of 700 delegates from 70 countries are participating in it.
“With growth comes power and with power comes responsibility. With 1.8 billion travellers, we could end up with 1.8-billion opportunity or 1.8-billion disaster. How we manage this impressive growth is in our hands,” said Bandarin.
“We must ensure the 1.8 billion travellers translate into opportunities for inclusive economic growth, and opportunities for more and better jobs,” he added.
Tourism generates $3.2 billion every day globally, accounting for 10.2 per cent of the world’s GDP.
Tourism industry has much to celebrate because international tourism registered “above average economic growth” for the seventh year in a row. In 2016, 1,235 million travellers crossed international borders.
According to officials gathered at the meet, major world challenges are emerging, directly or indirectly linked to global transformations such as climate change, migration, natural disasters, health pandemics, unemployment, security, digital disruption, among others.
Yet, the growth of travel and tourism has been impressive, they said.
For UNESCO, the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development has represented an opportunity to focus on the roe of tourism in protecting, safeguarding and promoting cultural heritage.
At the opening ceremony, the UNWTO appointed First Lady of Iceland, Eliza Jean Reid as the Special Ambassador for Tourism and Sustainable Development Goals.