“I am delighted to send greetings to the 18th session of the general assembly of the UNWTO,” UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has told the delegates of 18th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization via a message that was read by Taleb Rifai.
The UN secretary general added: “As the United Nations specialized agency for the promotion of sustainable tourism the UNWTO has important contributions to make to the world’s efforts to respond to the global economic crises and deal with other global challenges.
“As reflected in your debates on the Roadmap of Recovery (presented by Geoffrey Lipman), your efforts to make tourism more sustainable can help the world address climate change, achieve the Millennium Development Goals and build a greener economy. I hope your voices will be heard as negotiations seek to seal a deal at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009.
“Tourism is among the major socio-economic phenomena of our times, and rightly occupies an important place on the United Nations agenda. I wish you every success in your deliberations.”
At the 18th UNWTO General Assembly, which is currently ongoing in the Kazakhstan capital city of Astana, Vanuatu and Norway were admitted as new UNWTO members, while the United Kingdom has left UNWTO.
On the first day of the assembly, Taleb Rifai was elected as the new secretary general of UNTWO and a tribute to former secretary general Francesco Frangialli was also presented. The former UNWTO secretary general was named honorary secretary general of the UNWTO.
Secretary general Rifai said he would lobby for UK to come back and urged to lobby more Caribbean nations to join UNWTO. He also said he is hopeful that after December, when the new tourism legislation passed in the US, the framework would be set for the US to join UNWTO.
Meanwhile, India sent condolences to Indonesia, Philippines and Samoa for the natural disasters, while it was announced at the same time that millions may be homeless after flooding in Southern India.
World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) president Jean Claude Baumgartner, for his part, made a presentation. In it, he has said that he now sees a new beginning in cooperation with UNWTO. He also said, that he represents private industry, and in the current situation only coordinated cooperation between UNWTO and the private sector would work. He asked delegates to work together with WTTC.
It was also announced that San Marino, where tourism is number one industry, wants to take a more prominent role in UNWTO.
The president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, also attended the gathering and even made time to speak. In his address, President Nazarbayev said that Kazakhstan sees “a chance to emerge as a prime tourism destination in the Euro-Asia region.” It was also noted that Kazakhstan has hired Frangialli to become an adviser for tourism.
However, Saudi Arabia generated the loudest buzz at the assembly’s first day, as the reclusive came in full force for their inaugural participation.
Delegates were treated to an evening performance and a gala dinner by the host country, Kazakhstan.