MADRID ­- UNWTO’s Tourism Resilience Committee (TRC) met today for the first time in Madrid. The recently established TRC is one of the responses of the organization to provide the sector, and its members in particular, with the necessary support to help them endure these challenging times.

The committee, chaired by His Excellency Zoheir Garranah, Tourism Minister of Egypt, represents a unique platform to share short-term analysis and prospects, as well as response best practices to help better assess and weather the impact of the current situation on tourism performance.

Tourism, alongside other economic sectors, is feeling the impacts of the deterioration of the global economy. The economic downturn – combined with increasing uncertainties, extreme market volatility, and declining consumer and business confidence – took its toll already on international tourism demand as proven by plummeting results during the last months of 2008. This set the pace for 2009 as economic forecasts are experiencing successive downward revisions adding to the existing uncertainty and confidence crisis.

Short-term response – long-term challenges
Unlike previous crises, the current downturn is, for the first time, of a global nature, affecting both emerging and mature destinations, and its impact is probable to last longer. But, history shows that the return of economic growth will also lead to the recovery of tourism. And the sector can, and should, play a key role in any global response plan.

The TRC meeting stressed that any short-term economic response goals must be aligned with long-term commitments to sustainable development, poverty alleviation, and climate-change response.

UNWTO deputy secretary-general Taleb Rifai stressed that, “In these times of such significant uncertainty and volatility, both public and private tourism stakeholders have a responsibility to continue and even reinforce the efforts towards a more sustainable tourism development. UNWTO will stand by its members and the tourism sector as a whole to achieve this.”

Minister Zoheir Garranah said that, “Any short term measures should stay on course with the development and climate agenda.”

UNWTO assistant secretary-general, Geoffrey Lipman added that, “The ultimate goal should be to strive for what is being termed ‘smart tourism.’ By this we mean clean, green, ethical, and quality at all levels of the service chain. There is no better sector for this green economy approach than tourism. We can provide many more green tourism jobs in the years ahead if we set our minds to the task.”

UNWTO will further assist members and provide direction to the industry at large through strengthened support services in risk management and crisis response as well as expanding its long-term market 2020 vision to 2030.

The Committee is open to all UNWTO members, as well as invited key private and public stakeholders and will meet at least on two more occasions during 2009: on March 13 at ITB, Berlin, Germany and in October at the UNWTO General Assembly in Astana, Kazakhstan.

For International Tourism in 2008 and Outlook for 2009, see .