Innovation, youth empowerment and tourism and rural development took centre stage at the recently concluded UNWTO General Assembly in Madrid.
The 24th General Assembly in Madrid, Spain has brought together more than 1,000 delegates from 135 countries, including 84 Ministers of Tourism as well as business leaders, destinations and representatives of key international organizations. One of the key focus areas was on UNWTO’s response to the impacts of the pandemic and uniting members behind its leadership and Programme of Work as well as looking ahead to a more sustainable and inclusive future for the sector.
Addressing a special thematic Session, “Building for the Future: Innovation, Education and Rural Development”, Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez Pérez-Castejón recognized the importance of the sector for providing opportunities outside of cities, both in Spain and worldwide, while also reaffirming his Government’s support for UNWTO’s mission.
Opening the General Assembly, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili cited the spirit of solidarity and determination that has defined tourism’s response to an unprecedented crisis. According to him, a clear focus on collaboration and harmonization of protocols, political advocacy and securing financial support for tourism, have helped the sector mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and laid the foundations for tourism’s restart in many parts of the country.
Pololikashvili said: “In every global region, the pandemic has made clear the importance of our sector – for economic growth, for jobs and trade, and for protecting natural and cultural heritage. We must make the most of this opportunity – to transform goodwill into concrete support.”
Emphasizing the significance of the General Assembly, as well as UNWTO’s elevated stature within the global agenda, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for members to work together for a “green, inclusive, sustainable” future.
Guterres added: “I commend UNWTO and Secretary-General Pololikashvili and hope the decisions taken at the General Assembly will help restore trust in travel and get the world moving safely do developing economies can reap the benefits of sustainable tourism.”
Alongside receiving an updated on UNWTO’s activities since the last General Assembly two years ago, Members also benefited from a comprehensive overview of the latest tourism trends, as indicated by UNWTO’s latest data, as well as an updated overview of restrictions on travel worldwide.
The General Assembly also celebrated destinations that are already leading the way in making tourism a pillar of rural development and opportunity. From hundreds of entries, 44 villages from 32 countries were named as Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO.
The next session of the UNWTO’s general Assembly will be held in the Uzbekistan city of Samarkand while, Bali, Indonesia will host World Tourism Day 2022, which will take the theme ‘Rethinking Tourism’. Looking further ahead, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was also confirmed as the host country for World Tourism Day 2023, to be held around the year of ‘Tourism for Green Investments’.