Tourism Transformed at UNWTO Ministers’ Summit
Held around the theme of ‘Rethinking Tourism’, the 16th Summit gathered Ministers and high-level delegates from 19 countries, alongside business leaders. Reflecting the heightened relevance of tourism for cross-cutting economic and social wellbeing, this year’s edition was the most successful to date. This consolidated platform for public and private sector leaders addresses tourism’s most pressing issues and sets the agenda for the years ahead.
Opening the event, Secretary-General Pololikashvili emphasized the unique opportunity
to transform the sector. However, with UNWTO data showing that global tourism now
at around 70% of pre-pandemic levels, “the window of opportunity will not stay open
forever. We need to rethink tourism: as a provider of jobs, an economic pillar, and,
against the backdrop of COP27, as a solution to the climate emergency”.
Education, jobs key to tourism’s future
Presenting an overview of UNWTO’s work leading the transformation of tourism,
Secretary-General Pololikashvili focused on investing in sustainable infrastructure
and in people, most notably through quality education and providing decent jobs.
Echoing UNWTO’s position, Juliette Losardo, Exhibition Director at World Travel Markets,
noted that “a post-pandemic world has revealed exciting opportunities, and given us a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reconsider tourism and ask ourselves how we can
rebuild and better prepare for the future”. Julia Simpson, President and CEO of the
World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), which co-organizes the Summit with UNWTO,
emphasized the “talent, speed and capital” of the private sector.
Global expertise for common challenges
The roundtable brought together Ministers of Tourism from every global region. Each
provided unique insights from their own countries. Opening, His Excellency, Ahmed
Al-Khateeb, Minister of Tourism for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stressed putting
“sustainability above everything”, also noting his country’s focus on innovation and
youth. Highlighting the importance of diversifying national tourism sectors, including
through domestic and rural tourism, and creating new products were Abdulla Mausoom, Minister of Tourism for the Maldives, the Minister for Portugal, Rita Marques, and the
Minister for Egypt, Ahmed Issa.
Picking up on the theme of Rethinking Tourism, the Minister of Tourism for Croatia
Nikolina Brnjac, noted that this would require an “evolution” towards measuring success
by greater sustainability”. Meanwhile, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism
for Mauritius Steven Obeegadoo, emphasized its ability to promote peace, adding “We
need to look beyond tourism to rebuild tourism.” Also contributing to discussions were
the Ministers from Bahrain, Costa Rica Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Malawi, Malta,
Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Philippines, and Sri Lanka.
Representing tourism’s vast and broad private sector, Expedia and the Radisson
Hotel Group outlined their proactive work achieving greater sustainability, as well as
highlighting the sector’s ability to provide decent jobs and lifelong career progression
for people everywhere.
Tourism’s unprecedented political relevance
While the Summit promoted diversity of thought, background and experiences, a focus
on tourism’s unique power as a driver of sustainability and as a promoter of peace and
understanding proved a common theme. High-level participants emphasized that now
is the time for the tourism sector to focus more on cooperation rather than competition.
Ministers also acknowledged UNWTO Secretary-General Pololikashvili’s call for tourism
to be mainstreamed within the political agenda and for greater collaboration
between ministries of tourism and those of economy, business and environment.
Trusted data to inform debate
UNWTO’s trusted data provided the context for discussions. Building on the
Organization’s status as the leading provider of global tourism intelligence.