The Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai has again highlighted the role that tourism can play in breaking down barriers between peoples and as a key tool for sustainable development.
“Tourism is increasingly and rightly being recognized as a sector that can help usher in a better world and 2017 is a unique opportunity for us to promote the contribution of tourism to achieving the future we want – and also to determine, together, the exact role we will have tourism play in the sustainable development agenda, to and beyond 2030,” wrote Rifai in an open letter to the press.
The United Nations has named the year of 2017 the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.”
2017 is also Rifai’s final year in his post after seven years at the head of the UNWTO, during which the number of international travelers passed the mark of 1.1 billion.
“I have seen tourism become one of the world’s most important and impactful socio-economic sectors of our times. I have seen its growing relevance to the lives of millions around the world, to the preservation of our common values and to greater understanding among people of all walks of life,” Rifai said in the letter.
But he admitted there are still “many challenges” to be overcome, but stressed “tourism is a sector of hope.”
“Not only is it one of the most resilient economic sectors, but it also unites people across backgrounds, cultures and continents every day,” Rifai explained, calling for efforts to “make this world a better place.”
Headquartered in Madrid, the UNWTO is the UN agency responsible for the promotion of sustainable tourism.