Gearing up for UNWTO General Assembly


In the midst of economic, climate, social, and health challenges, the 18th session of the UNWTO General Assembly will convene in Astana, Kazakhstan from October 5-8. UNWTO itself is also undergoing significant changes with the election of a new Secretary-General to take place at the Assembly.

Since the last session of the General Assembly (November 2007, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia) the travel and tourism industry has had to endure the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, accelerating trends of climate change and the influenza A(H1N1) pandemic. To confront these challenges and steer the tourism industry on the path to recovery, this year’s General Assembly will bring together tourism ministers and senior officials from national tourism organizations, as well as public, private, and academic affiliate members.


The Roadmap for Recovery will be officially presented in Astana. The document is the result of an intense work program of the UNWTO Tourism Resilience Committee and is aimed at guiding the sector out of the economic downturn. The Roadmap calls on world leaders to place tourism and travel at the core of stimulus packages and the Green New Deal. The sector has the potential to play an essential role in the post crisis recovery by providing jobs, infrastructure, stimulating trade, and aiding development and should thus be a key consideration at future global economic summits. The Roadmap will be presented by the UNWTO Secretary-General a.i. Taleb Rifai and set the stage for this assembly’s general debate (October 5 and 6). It will furthermore be the topic of the third meeting of the Tourism Resilience Committee (October 8).


The 85th session of the UNWTO Executive Council, meeting in Mali in May this year, recommended Taleb Rifai for the post of UNWTO Secretary-General. If the recommendation is ratified by the General Assembly, Mr. Rifai will begin his 4-year mandate in January 2010 when he will start to implement his agenda structured around membership, partnerships, and governance.


As one of the main income sources for many countries, in particular developing states, and an engine of job creation, barriers to travel such as visa processes must be scrutinized objectively. This is even more the case in times of economic downturn. A declaration on the facilitation of tourist travel will be presented at the General Assembly (October 7) urging governments to consider measures such as simplifying visa applications and re-evaluating travel advisories. Facilitating travel is not only necessary for the resilience of the sector, but also the global economic recovery.


Along similar lines, the General Assembly will call for responsible travel in the course of the A(H1N1) pandemic (October 6), urging governments not to take unilateral measures that may unnecessarily disrupt global travel during a briefing on the virus. UNWTO has held two review and preparation exercises on “Travel and Tourism in pandemic conditions,” which will form part of a briefing on the status of the virus and its impact on the tourism sector.
This is of particular importance given that October is the beginning of the winter flu season in the Northern Hemisphere.


The General Assembly will also, inter alia, host a meeting concerning the development and promotion of cultural tourism as part of the ongoing Silk Road project (October 8), propose the themes selected for World Tourism Day 2010 and 2011 (October 7), decide the places and dates of the 19th Session of the General Assembly, and convene a meeting of the ST-EP Foundation/Working Group (October 7).


This year, for the first time, UNWTO is preparing a special communications campaign and all assembly proceedings will be made available to the media.
This footage will include interviews with top tourism officials reflecting on the challenges facing international tourism and the future development of the sector. In addition there will be the opportunity to meet and interview the President of Kazakhstan, Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev.

To arrange an interview with official delegates, members of the private sector or UNWTO officials, please contact Marcelo Risi, UNWTO Media Officer, in Astana on +34 639-818-162 between October 1-8 inclusive.