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ITB Berlin News - Day 2

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NEWS 9 Taleb Rifai,

NEWS 9 Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General: “Our industry can alleviate poverty to a large number of people by generating wealth” Spectacular ITB Berlin Opening Ceremony Underlines Industry Solidarity Around 4,000 invited guests at the ITB Berlin opening ceremony witnessed not only a breathtaking tour of 2016 partner country, the Maldives, but also an exceptional demonstration of solidarity from all industry players towards sustainability and responsibility. Leading political figures at the event included the Governing Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller, Iris Gleicke, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy - and Government Commissioner for the new Federal States, SMEs and Tourism. Guests were greeted by Dr Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin. Senior figures of the tourism industry included Dr. Michael Frenzel, President of the Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry (BTW), and Taleb Rifai, General Secretary of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and David Scowsill, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), just to mention a few. Guests were entertained in the CityCube Berlin by a medley of folk dances, songs and music, and were offered an insight into the many aspects of Maldivian culture. Indeed, over 60 artists told the story of the building of wooden boat, from keel-laying, through building the hull, right up to the craft’s launch. In a touching speech at the ceremony, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai echoed the same sentiments he had conveyed at a press conference earlier in the day, underlining the fact that governments should not be building walls, despite fears of refugee influx or terrorism, citing the vital importance of the Schengen accord in this respect. The message conveyed by those speaking at the ceremony was that, more than ever, ITB Berlin is the place where world leaders come to discuss the fundamentals; that tourism is an incredible chance, but that it must benefit the people who live in the countries being visited, reflecting a total respect, and instilling tolerance and open-mindedness. Despite challenges and uncertain times, world tourism continued to grow last year as international tourist arrivals reached a new record of 1.18 billion, up by 4.4% over the previous year. “International tourism reached new heights in 2015. The robust performance of the sector is contributing to economic growth and job creation. This is why I want to state again the utmost critical importance for countries to promote policies that foster the continued growth of tourism, including travel facilitation, human resources development and sustainability”, said UNWTO Secretary- General Taleb Rifai at a press event in Berlin on Tuesday 8 th March. Tourism’s evolution in 2015 was under the influence of various factors. While dropping oil prices created additional purchasing power, fluctuating exchange rates had a more mixed effect. Although the decline in currencies values helped make some destinations more attractive - such as Europe or Japan, it also considerably slowed demand. “Russia is a typical example where the decline in the ruble translated into a double-digit drop in Russian travellers”, explained Rifai. Another devastating issue was acts of terrorism, and the following reactions by Federal Governments. “We all understand the need to offer a high level of security for all travellers to a country. However the challenge of the security is not to close borders and consequently close ourselves to the others. We however need also to be concerned about the well-being of our tourism industry. Our industry can alleviate poverty to a large number of people by generating wealth. By restricting foreign visitors movements or access to countries, politicians must understand that they will generate more damage than benefits to their own citizens by jeopardizing their future”, added Mr Rifai. DESPITE GEOPOLITICAL CONSTRAINTS, THE HABIT OF TRAVEL WILL NOT STOP AS IT IS PART OF MOST PEOPLE’S WAY OF LIFE Other issues will be to strengthen the sustainable development of tourism. “We will present targets of sustainability during the next UNWTO General Assembly with precise benchmarks to measure the state of development of tourism for countries”, Mr Rifai stressed. The UNWTO Secretary General however remained optimistic: “Despite geopolitical constraints, the habit of travel will not stop as it is part of most people’s way of life”. ITB BERLIN NEWS • Thursday 10 th March 2016

ITB Berlin News