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WTO stresses the importance of co-operation with the European Union

The Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization Mr. Francesco Frangialli, called for an intensified co-operation with the European Union and its member states….

The Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization Mr. Francesco Frangialli, called for an intensified co-operation with the European Union and its member states. Addressing the European Tourism Forum in Brussels, Mr. Frangialli presented the current tourism situation in the world in general and in Europe in particular, emphasizing the threat of terrorism and major structural changes, while another WTO representative, Mr. Geoffrey Lipman, called the EU to support the Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) project.

At a time when the World Tourism Organization itself is becoming increasingly visible to the international community and has embarked on conversion into a specialized agency of the United Nations, I would like to say that it is ready and willing to enhance its cooperation with the European Union and its member states, said Mr. Frangialli.

In the past two years considerable progress was reached in two main areas, defined by the two organizations as complementary. The WTO and the European Union have pooled their resources and undertaken direct action to fight against child sex tourism. Initially the WTO and the Tourism Unit of the Enterprise Directorate-General signed an agreement in December 2000. This was followed by a second agreement concluded in April 2002, this time with the EuropeAid Cooperation Office, and more specifically with its Democracy and Human Rights Unit. In all the European Union has spent two million euros funding various interactive projects coordinated by the WTO and carried out in association with four partners, namely, the ECPAT/Respect Group, the Family and Child Care Centre, the International Federation of Journalists, and the International Federation Terre des Hommes.

The second area of cooperation is gaining an overview of tourism macroeconomics using the national accounts as a technical basis. In cooperation with Eurostat and the OECD, the World Tourism Organization has prepared the Tourism Satellite Account project. The common concepts, classifications and methods prepared by WTO were approved by the Statistical Commission of the United Nations in March 2000.

I am pleased that the European Union, both collectively and at the level of individual members, has become involved in the work of preparing satellite accounts based on methodology prepared by WTO. The Council’s decision issued in May under the Presidency of Spain signified a definite step forward, Mr. Frangialli stressed.

WTO Secretary-General also analyzed the increasing frequency of terrorist attacks, which have directly targeted tourists in Djerba, Tunisia in April; in Bali, Indonesia in October; in Santa Marta, Colombia, in November; and most recently, in Mombassa, Kenya, just barely two weeks ago now. The Bali bombing was the most serious attack on foreign visitors in the history of world tourism.

These factors have worsened the climate of fear and uncertainty among travellers and augmented the impression that no destination anywhere in the world is completely safe any longer. If this perception becomes ingrained in the minds of potential travel consumers, it would give serious cause for concern about the future: the crisis, by definition temporary, would give way to a state of permanent danger in which attacks aimed at innocent visitors who are targeted in conflicts that have nothing to do with them may occur anywhere at any time, underlined Mr. Frangialli.

The repercussions of acts of terrorism are both direct and indirect: direct insofar as they obliterate the desire to travel and indirect insofar as they contribute to delaying the awaited economic recovery, thereby lowering demand as a whole, including demand for travel.

On the supply side, these same factors have led to higher security and insurance costs, which penalizes the tourism industry and not just airlines and airports. At the same time, increased volatility in the financial markets contributes to the unfavourable overall climate.

However, continued Mr. Frangialli, let us not draw mistaken conclusions from this series of difficulties. Taken as a whole, the data do not necessarily point to a lasting slump in international tourism activity, in that potential demand for travel remains strong and the need to travel does not contract. WTO will be publishing its initial estimates a month from now, but it is far from certain that 2002 will close with negative growth in arrivals or even receipts.

Speaking about Europe’s dominance in the world’s tourism industry, Mr. Frangialli stated that the fact that Europe is continuing to lose market share in terms of both financial and physical flows should not be disregarded. Its share of receipts is gradually falling, and in future Europe will only be taking in a little less than 58 per cent of total arrivals worldwide. Europe has lost about 7 per cent of world market share over a period of 20 years. Acording to WTO’s preliminary forecasts, unless it reacts vigorously, Europe will, by 2020, account for no more than 46 per cent of the total, Mr. Frangialli said. Clearly, this development does not in the main reflect a specific decline but rather the globalization of tourism.

Mr. Geoffrey Lipman, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Trade in Tourism Services, raised voice about Europe’s global leadership responsibilities towards the world’s major problem of poverty elimination. Wisely developed tourism is the world’s poorest countries’ biggest collective development and social equality tool. It generates directly and indirectly a higher quantity of GDP, jobs and investment than most other economic activities.

Mr. Lipman firstly urged the European and national travel and tourism strategies to reflect a positive support for the external dimension and accord it a high priority. It is important for us as Europeans and as global citizens, Mr. Lipman said. Secondly he called for bringing to individual and collective attention the ST-EP project, launched in Johannesburg by WTO as the global tourism leader and UNCTAD as the UN body responsible for the world’s poorest countries. ST-EP seeks to link Sustainable Tourism and Elimination of Poverty. It will attract funding, from non-traditional tourism related sources; stimulate new research into linkages between tourism and poverty and seed fund model projects for SME’s and micro-enterprises in poorer countries. Thereby linking our own Global Code of Tourism Ethics with the UN Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty by 2015.

Theodore Koumelis
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