Andorra successfully hosts UNWTO’s first-ever Global Tourism Forum

ANDORRA LA VELLA, Andorra (eTN) – The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) along with host country Andorra has succeeded in bringing together a high-level delegation of travel and tourism stakeholders for the first-ever UNWTO Global Tourism Forum, held March 6 to 7, 2011.

UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai said: “We at UNWTO have a long history of cooperation with Andorra. We are going to continue to be active in the snow and mountain conferences that are being held in Andorra. Next year, we are going to have another conference here in Andorra.”

Mr. Rifai added, “The Global Tourism Forum represents yet another important step in strengthening and enforcing our already strong relationship.”

On Andorra’s part, the prime minister of Andorra himself, Jaume Bartumeu, along with Andorra Tourism Minister Claudi Benet and Economy Minister Pere Lopez were all said to have been very much active in the planning of the UNWTO event,all of whom were in attendance at some point during the conference.

At the event’s opening ceremony, which was held on March 6, 2011, Andorra Prime Jaume Bartumeu said: “I would like to thank Mr. Rifai and the UNWTO for [allowing] us to host this event here in Andorra. Our government – myself, the ministers of tourism and economy – have been working on this event for some time. We believe that Andorra is the perfect and ideal place [to host these types of events].”

Under the theme, “Building New Models for Tourism Growth: Competitiveness and Responsibility,” the UNWTO Global Tourism Forum held sessions on “The State of the Industry: Global Outlook,” “Creating Competitive Framework in Tourism: Key Factors to Stimulate Growth,” and “Investing in Responsible Tourism: Contributing to a Fair and Inclusive Growth.”

One of the first-ever UNWTO Global Tourism Forum’s highlights was a keynote speech (via live video conference) by Jeffrey Sachs, who is the director of Columbia University’s The Earth Institute. Prof. Sachs has served as a special advisor to two United Nations secretary-generals, Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan, respectively.

In his speech, Prof. Sachs emphasized the significance of the travel and tourism industry. He also pointed out that the industry is very much vulnerable to various environmental and societal intricacies. He said: “The tourism industry is a huge employer, is a huge creator of economic values, it’s a huge benefit to society, yet it is enormously vulnerable, and it can be a huge beneficiary of rapid growth in developing countries. But it is extremely vulnerable to the increasing destabilization from the lack of attention to sustainable development in the world.”

Professor Sachs urged the industry to raise its voice to tell governments to get more serious on these environmental, food, and energy issues.”

Also present at the two-day event are Mexican Tourism Minister Gloria Guevara Manzo, South African Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwy, World Travel & Tourism Council president David Scowsill, Visit Britain chairman Christopher Rodrigues, Pacific Asia Travel Association chairman Hiran Cooray, and chairman Geoffrey Lipman, UNESCO World Heritage Center deputy director Marina Apaydin, to name just a few.

UNWTO says its Global Tourism Forum “endeavors to promote tourism’s unquestionably valuable role as a factor contributing to the recovery of the global economy.”

The UN-specialized agency on tourism added that tourism “is a sector that stands out in terms of its effectiveness as a creator of jobs, its high degree of competiveness, and its increasingly keen awareness of the need for sustainable development.

In their separate speeches during the closing ceremony of the inaugural Global Tourism Forum, it was made clear by both UNWTO Secretary-General Rifai and Minister Lopez that Andorra will once again host UNWTO’s Global Tourism Forum “same time next year.”

PHOTO (L to R): Andorra Economy Ministet Pere Lopez, Andorra Prime Minister Jaume Bartumeu, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, Andorra Tourism Minister Claudi Benet