WTO expects growth in tourism after recession

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The World Trade Organization (WTO) says the tourism industry, which is the chief foreign exchange earner for many Caribbean countries, can play a relevant role after the current global economic crisis ends.

The sector has been negatively affected by the economic downturn, but the WTO says this is not the first time that tourism has suffered a setback and, if handled correctly, it can bounce back even stronger than before.

The positive outlook is one of the conclusions of the recently-held first meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Tourism Resilience Committee (TRC), which sets guidelines for the tourism sector to overcome the current economic situation.

“It is not possible to asses how long the economic crisis will last, nor the extent of the downturn and its full impact on tourism,” said UNWTO’s interim Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “What is clear is that tourism can play a critical role in the recovery process as a sector with a unique resurgence capacity and an immense potential in terms of employment creation and sustainability.

“UNWTO’s Tourism Resilience Committee will precisely monitor the evolving economic situation and its effects on tourism.”

Essential conclusions of the TRC include a swift course of action while keeping in mind the differences among specific tourism destinations; greater cooperation among tourism stakeholders; innovation in areas such as product development, marketing, distribution, human resources training and all regional and national policies; and improved and more substantial market information.

The UNWTO has highlighted the relevance of keeping in mind the long term benefits of tourism, such as its capacity for job creation, contribution to local economies and poverty reduction.

“If short term crisis response is aligned with the current long term issues, that is global poverty and climate challenges, the overall industry structure will be strengthened,” the TRC said.

The UNWTO expects international tourism to stagnate or even decline slightly by one to two per cent throughout 2009.

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