Published on : Saturday, January 6, 2018
In what appears to be a farewell and last statement on the performance of the global tourism industry, the immediate past Secretary General of the UNWTO, Dr. Taleb Rifai, described 2017 as a special year for tourism due to the milestones achieved even as he reflected on his 12 years stint as the head of the world tourism body.
To quote Dr. Rifai, ‘‘We have come to the end of a very special year for UNWTO and for the global tourism community. In late 2015, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2017 as the ‘International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.’”
This was undoubtedly a global recognition of tourism as an important contributor to the development agenda through economic growth, social inclusion, as well as cultural and environmental enrichment and preservation.
Dr. Rifai further said, ‘‘UNWTO was designated by the UN General Assembly to coordinate the activities and the celebrations of the International Year. With your support and the great support of our partners, we have promoted the value and contribution of sustainable tourism to development, to inclusive economic growth, social empowerment cultural and environmental enrichment and protection as well as mutual understanding, peace and justice. This was in many ways a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to come together and work closer in making travel and tourism a catalyst for positive change. The launch of the Measuring Sustainable Tourism last June in the Philippines, the adoption by Members States during the Chengdu General Assembly of the ‘Tourism and Sustainable Development Goals’ Declaration, the Montego Bay Declaration and the Lusaka Declaration.”
Dr. Rifai, who in his tenure as the secretary general has witnessed tremendous growth in tourism, year on year, said that the success of 2017 will continue to this year as well.
Reflecting on his service to world tourism, Dr. Rifai expressed his delight at the opportunity to have served the global body for a large number of years, and thanked those who helped him in shaping the future of tourism.
For the incoming secretary general, Dr. Rifai, wished him well and expressed confidence in his ability to push further the frontiers of tourism: ‘‘I wish Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, the incoming Secretary-General, every success in continuing to drive our sector forward to a better future.’’