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

TravTalk - India - - News - AHANA GURUNG

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.

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