US and UK ‘the losers’ on travel policy, says UNWTO chief

US and UK ‘the losers’ on travel policy, says UNWTO chief

World Travel & Tourism CouncilTaleb Rifai, Secretary General, UNWTO, CC BY 2.0, Link

The US “will suffer” from its ban on visitors from Muslim-majority countries and Britain be “the loser” of Foreign Office advice against flights to Sharm el-Sheik, according to the head of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai hit out at President Trump’s travel ban, saying it “violates” principles “of human rights, freedom and non-discrimination. But he said: “Beyond that, the US will suffer [by] going back to a period when the US was not seen as welcoming.”

The executive order imposing the ban remains suspended by a US court despite the administration’s attempt to reintroduce it in March.

Rifai said: “Every day that passes will hurt the industry. Jobs will be lost. Businesses will suffer.

“The real damage will fall on the US.  A study showed that every 43 tourism visas issued to the US created one US job.

“[But] the US is not the only destination. If the US is inaccessible, it’s the problem of the US. Business will go somewhere else. Leisure travellers will go somewhere else.”

Rifai also hit out at UK Foreign Office advice against flights to Sharm el Sheik, imposed in late 2015 following the bombing of a Russian holiday jet which killed 224, calling it “totally unreasonable”.

The Foreign Office continues to advise against flights to Sharm, citing “a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation”, but does not advise against visiting the resort.

Rifai said: “The advisory is not based on evidence on the ground. How can you go to Sharm? By swimming?

“I was in Egypt and saw how many have lost jobs. Tourism advisories should be made in concert with the destination authorities, but there is no dialogue.

“The airport looks like a ghost town. Britain says the airport is not secure enough. It’s politically based. The authorities in Egypt were willing to cooperate. They said, ‘Let them run the airport themselves’.”

Now, he said: “Egypt adopted a different line. It said: ‘The British are welcome, but if they don’t come, someone else will. Let’s look for other markets.’ You’re the loser.”

Rifai, who will stand down as secretary general at the end this year, is due to the address the World Travel & Tourism Council Summit in Bangkok next week.


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