Government failure to recognise the value of tourism remains the biggest challenge to the sector, say the leaders of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
The heads of the UNWTO, representing 156 UN member states, and WTTC – representing private sector leaders of travel and tourism – united to condemn policymakers’ failure at the UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu.
New WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara identified “multiple challenges”, but said the greatest was “to engage with the policy makers”.
She said: “In some cases, tourism ministers are policy makers. [But] in many cases they are not.
“I was tourism minister in Mexico and you don’t make the laws. Sometimes you are fighting with your own cabinet.”
UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai agreed, saying: “Government is the challenge. It is government we need to work on.”
He recalled when he became tourism minister of Jordan being told by the country’s prime minister: “Tourism is nothing. It’s a little thing.”
Rifai said he had met 85 heads of government as UNWTO secretary general and insisted: “The tourism minister is a very lonely minister.
“They can never succeed because the minister of interior and the minister of environment don’t understand what they are doing. That is where the problem lies.
“The minister of finance is not interested in tourism – he has millions of things on his mind. The minister of culture is the same.
“The private sector makes a difference on the ground, but it can’t act without government. The UNWTO and our partners the WTTC recognise this.”
Rifai asked: “How do we deal with the issue? We raise awareness as much as we can. [But] we need to say ‘How can we help you’ to prove we are relevant.
“One of the major challenges is security. So we talk to security people and say ‘How can we help you to improve security?”
The head of the Georgian National Tourism Administration Giorgi Chogovadze said: “Often the tourism minister is a role for pre-retirement. Tourism needs more respect and more professionalism.”
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