Tourism ‘shines’ through travel bans, terrorism–UNWTO chief

THE United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) underscored the powerful role of tourism in helping people from different cultures understand each other and gain empathy for other nations’ conditions.
At the sidelines of the ongoing ITB Berlin travel trade show in Germany, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said: “We live the worst of times and the best of times. Times when we wake up every other day with the threat of terrorism at our doorstep and the glooming numbers of unemployment. Times of isolationism and ill-conceived actions, like travel bans, which do not lead to increased security but just to growing tension. Despite all these complex and interlinked challenges, despite acts against the freedom of travel, the power of tourism continues to shine through the darkness.”

Quoting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Rifai added in a news statement: “Beyond the measurable advances that tourism can make possible, it is also a bridge to better mutual understanding among people from all walks of life.”
ourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo is leading the largest Philippine delegation to ITB Berlin, which is ongoing until March 12.
“It is a must-attend business-to-business event showcasing diverse destinations, trade products and services, as well as attractive packages of the different markets. Indeed, ITB Berlin is the foremost business platform for global touristic offers, where supply meets demands,” she  said in a separate news statement.
The travel show opened on March 8, with Teo and other officials of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and its attached agencies opening the “elegantly designed” 276-square-meter Philippines booth at the Messe Berlin
The DOT said at least 14 tour operators and 14 hotel and resorts from the Philippines were busy throughout the day to accommodate guests from all over the world. Five of the 28 Philippine exhibitors this year are first-timers at ITB Berlin.
“I am not surprised that the private sector would like to take advantage of the [European] market that accounted for 10.55 percent of the Philippines’s total inbound traffic in 2016. The private sector has become more aggressive in tapping this market, indicating that our tourism stakeholders and movers recognize the great potential of attracting the European source market,” the DOT chief said.
Data from the DOT showed 629,273 tourists from Europe visited the Philippines in 2016, up 14.63 percent, from the 548,969 arrivals in 2015. The largest source of visitors from Europe is the United Kingdom, with 173,299 arrivals in 2016.
Other European countries from which visitor arrivals to the Philippines have been expanding are: Spain at 32,097 tourists in 2016 (up some 33 percent); France, 55,384 arrivals (up 21.71 percent); and Germany, 86,363 (up 14.62 percent).
Teo pointed out that this strong arrivals growth from the European market shows the rising positive perception foreign tourists have of the Philippines.
For her part, Philippine Tourism Attaché for Central and Eastern Europe Margarita Patricia R. Valdes said the Europeans are generally fascinated with the Philippines.
“The Philippines is especially attractive to the European markets because of its multidestination, multiproduct offerings that are unique from other Asian destinations, made even more fun with the warm and genuine spirit of the Filipino people,” she observed.
Also attending the five-day travel show is Camarines Sur Gov. Miguel Luis R. Villafuerte who personally manned the Camsur Water Sports Complex’s booth “to entice the ITB Berlin guests to experience the province’s natural and man-made wonders”, the DOT said.
Teo noted that the ITB Berlin is attended by the world’s leading travel-trade companies and organizations’ top decision-makers, experts, buyers and young professionals to network, negotiate and do business.
This year the leading travel trade show focuses on sustainable and responsible tourism in keeping with the UNWTO’s declaration for the 2017 theme. Nearly 60 exhibitors from 35 countries are presenting their latest offers and products for adventure and ecological travel, and for economically and socially responsible tourism.
Rifai recalled the UN’s declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is a clear recognition of the potential contribution of tourism to social progress, equality and prosperity and peace, and that tourism must be at the forefront of the 2020 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“In a world that seems increasingly short of tolerance and generosity, we should cherish tourism as a precious pillar of peace among communities and nations,“ he stressed.
He added there was a need to ensure, that as the tourism industry expands, “it contributes to the well-being of the world and not to its peril. Tourism must fulfill its responsibility to contribute to all 17 universal Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs].”  The SDGs are an initiative of the UN and adopted by its 194 members, with the end in view of having a sustainable environment for every human being to enjoy. It has 17 targets, which include ending poverty and hunger; health, quality education, and gender equality; access to clean water and affordable energy; decent work and economic growth; climate action; among others


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