BERLIN, 9 March 2017: Tourism can transform our world and build better understanding in a world living a deficit of tolerance, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, at the opening ceremony of the 2017 edition of ITB Berlin, Wednesday.
He appeared to make a veiled reference to US President Donald Trump’s now infamous travel ban and the signing off a revised ban on Monday.
“We live the worst of times and the best of times. Times when we wake up… to the threat of terrorism on our doorsteps and the glooming numbers of unemployment. Times of isolationism and ill-conceived actions like travel bans, which do not lead to increased security, but just to growing tension. Despite all these complex and interlinked challenges, despite acts against the freedom of travel, the power of tourism continues to shine through the darkness,” Rifai said.
Tourism in Europe lost much of its shine since ITB Berlin last convened with terror attacks in France and Germany in 2016. Turkey saw its tourism decimated by terror attacks and a military coup. Egypt faces a massive challenge to recover in the wake of an aircraft bombing that scuttled thousands of charter flights.
Quoting the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, he said: “Beyond the measurable advances that tourism can make possible, it is also a bridge to better mutual understanding among people from all walks of life.”
In this context, Rifai recalled the declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations is a clear recognition of the potential contribution of tourism to social progress, equality and prosperity and peace and that tourism must be at the forefront of the 2020 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“In a world that seems increasingly short of tolerance and generosity, we should cherish tourism as a precious pillar of peace amongst communities and nations,” he said.
“We all need to ensure that, as our sector grows, it contributes to the wellbeing of the world and not to its peril. Tourism must fulfil its responsibility to contribute to all 17 universal Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.