Make tourism accessible for all
In a conversation with TRAVTALK, Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), talks about tourism’s resilience. He explains why the industry should promote universal accessibility and encourage ‘Tourism for All’ — the
QWhat is the idea behind the theme for World Tourism Day 2016?
This World Tourism Day (WTD), we urge all countries and destinations, as well as the industry, to promote accessibility for all in the physical environment, in transport systems, in public facilities and services and in information and communications channels. About 15 per cent of the world’s population is estimated to live with some form of disability. That's one billion people who may be unable to enjoy the privilege of knowing other cultures, experience nature at its fullest and experience the thrill of embarking on a journey to explore new sights. Accessibility for all should be at the centre of tourism policies and business strategies not only as a human right, but also as a great market opportunity.
QAre there any special celebrations in store? While WTD is celebrated worldwide, the official celebrations will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, from September 26- 29. Over the three days, there will be seminars on key topics like ‘Creating an adequate policy framework' and 'Investing in universal accessibility,' to name a few, that will be addressed by eminent speak- ers from tourism associations, government bodies, and many others from all over the globe.
QWhat is your opinion on the growth of the tourism industry particularly in APAC? Where do you see it going in the next decade?
The tourism sector is and will be experiencing an unprecedented development. From the 25 million international tourist arrivals registered in the 1950s till the present nearly 1200 million counted in 2015, a lot has happened in this sector. The recognition by the international community that tourism plays a key role in the development of nations, tacitly expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals linked to the Agenda 2030 is the clearest evidence of the progress of the sector lately. By 2030, we will witness 1800 million tourist arrivals worldwide, a figure that shows the tremendous importance of the sector in the coming years. Although Europe will continue to be the most-visited destination, the region of Asia and the Pacific will register the highest increase in international tourist arrivals.
QWhat are some of the key challenges that need to be focused on to make a country more tourism friendly?
For UNWTO, there are three areas of concern that remain our major priorities: safety and security, facilitation of travel through seamless processes such as the e-visa, maximising the use of technology and the application of sustainable practices to the tourism sector.
The latter is actually the theme of the International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development that will unite all actors involved in the tourism community through 2017. Governments, private sector, the academia and civil society will be widely addressed in the exchange of experiences and in awareness raising actions to enhance the sustainability of the tourism sector worldwide.
QHow can the industry overcome the damages terrorism has done this year?
Terrorism is a global phenomenon and it should be tackled through higher cooperation among nations. All sectors of our economies are impacted by these hideous attacks but what we have witnessed in the case of the tourism sector is that the impact is of short-term nature and that the strong resilience of the sector allows destinations to recover quite fast. This is visible not only with terrorist attacks but also in other critical events such as natural disasters, economic crises and epidemics.
QDo you think that the increasing use of technology and automation in tourism could result in less employment opportunities?
At present, the creation of 1 out of 11 jobs worldwide is linked directly or indirectly with the tourism sector. I do not envision that in the future the sector will see a reduction in its job creation potential. On the contrary, the diversification of the sector and the involvement of other fields will lead to the creation of new business opportunities, hence new professional profiles linked to tourism.
About 15 per cent of the world’s population is estimated to live with some form of disability; that's one billion people who may be unable to enjoy the privilege of knowing other cultures. Accessibility for all should be at the centre of tourism policies and business strategies not only as a human right, but also as a great market opportunity. Taleb Rifai Secretary-General, UNWTO
We actually face the challenge of having a deficit of staff and talent and this is why UNWTO works to advance education in tourism through training but also through certification of tourism education programmes through our UNWTO-Tedqual Certification.