Eight countries, five of them African (Cape Verde, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa) and three Latin American (Brazil, Argentina and the Dominican Republic) aspire to have a regional office of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), an issue that is going away to be addressed at the XXIV General Assembly that begins this Wednesday in Madrid.
This Assembly – initially it was going to be in Marrakech (Morocco) but that country withdrew from its organization for health reasons – intends to consolidate the recovery of world tourism and will also, foreseeably, approve the budget for the period 2022-2023, which amounts to 30.43 million of euros.
After the opening of the regional office for the Middle East in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) last May, the eight countries have communicated to the general secretary of the organization, Zurab Pololikashvili, their intention to open these branches, dependent on the world headquarters, located in Madrid.
UNWTO is the smallest specialized agency in the United Nations system, despite serving a sector that is the third largest category in export earnings after fuels and chemicals (based on its 2019 data).
The organization explains that it is entering a fully multilateral dimension and intends to deploy its regional presence, in line with other United Nations agencies, in which the trend is to have, on average, five or six regional offices to better connect its headquarters with the field operations.
The first UNWTO Regional Support Office for Asia and the Pacific was established in 1995 in Osaka (Japan) to help the development and promotion of tourism in the region and in 2012 it moved to its current location in the Japanese city of Nara.
The host State finances the establishment, organization and maintenance of the regional offices, including the salaries of all staff, although the selection will be made by UNWTO.
Tourist arrivals will fall
In presenting his report on the tourism situation to the Assembly, the secretary general will highlight that international tourist arrivals fell 73% in 2020, which translates into 1,000 million fewer arrivals, to figures similar to those of 30 years ago .
This produced losses of around US $ 2 trillion (1.75 trillion euros) in direct tourism gross domestic product, more than 2% of world GDP, and between 100 million and 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk.
The latest barometer of the organization reflects that international tourist arrivals fell by 20% in the first nine months over the 2020 figures (with better evolution in the third quarter due to the summer in the northern hemisphere) and are still 76% by below pre-pandemic levels.
By the end of this year, he estimates that international tourist arrivals around the world will remain between 70% and 75% below 2019 levels.
Capture new countries
UNWTO intends to continue working actively to attract non-member states and will give priority to the Anglo-Saxon, Nordic and Baltic countries of Europe, the Americas and Asia and the Pacific, as well as the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean. and the Pacific.
Among its priorities for the future, the organization is committed to smarter tourism, through innovation and digital transformation, which builds a united sector around sustainability and leaves no one behind.
It also defends that tourism is included in the national, regional and international agendas as a fundamental engine of the recovery of the world economy and that collaboration between states, the private sector and international organizations be intensified.
Another objective for the future seeks to scale and support 10,000 startups and innovative projects of the UNWTO Innovation Network, connecting them with the global ecosystem of tourism entrepreneurship to develop pilot projects and disseminate the most innovative solutions for the sector.
At the same time, it tries to push the UNWTO Tourism Online Academy to attract the largest number of courses in the six official languages of the UNWTO to train 500,000 people in the next four years.
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