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Mr. GEOFFREY LIPMAN Liberalization with a human face ___


Special Advisor to Secretary General WTO

Some years ago Alvin Toffler described “Future Shock” – the challenge for people

and institutions to cope with the accelerating pace of change.

Even Mr. Toffler did not foresee the helter skelter geopolitical, social, economic and

cross cultural trauma of the new millennium – and its post 9/11 intensification.

Nor could he fully anticipate the incredible magnification effect of 24 on 7 global

multimedia. Reverberated every hour on the hour. Increasingly available in real

time on personal wireless devices. And the 24hr News services with so much airtime

to fill and so connected topically & commercially to our sector.

What he did predict however is those who recognize and adapt to the phenomena

will prosper. And those who ignore it will die.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, despite the fragility of Tourism to these mega trends,

the rumor of our demise is rather premature.

Au contraire, the good news is that as a socio-economic phenomenon Tourism is

adapting, surviving and over the long term growing dynamically. Simply because

borders are opening, transport is becoming more available to more places and more

people, have more disposable income & want to use it to travel.

I don’t want to play down the seriousness of the short term slow downs in the

figures of the past 3 years, the capital squeeze on the overextended airline sector,

or the severe impact that security will have on costs and on congestion.

But the long term trends are incredibly positive, even with adjusted growth rates,

this industry will double over the next two to three decades – in some regions much

faster. It just won’t be a smooth ride – because we are so connected to central

politico-commercial activity. We have to adapt to the “Future Shock Syndrome”

This is not just important for those of us living in the Tourism Goldfish bowl but it’s

great news for the countries who understand that Tourism is an industry that

punches above its economic weight. That it stimulates other sectors of the economy

(as we saw so graphically during the Mad cow and sars outbreaks). And that,

properly managed – ie sustainably – it has all sorts of social benefits that other

sectors can’t deliver on.

The other piece of good news is that WTO itself is also adapting rapidly to provide

the leadership that the sector needs in these trying times. And in doing so, is

establishing a policy framework aligned to evolving global decision-making


The Secretary General has stressed the importance of our becoming the UN Tourism

Agency – and it must be said that this is only a result of his vision and

perseverance. Let me add one dimension – the UN itself is rapidly becoming the

accepted focal point for good global governance and under the leadership of Koffi

Annan is continuously adapting itself for that task – as for example with its new

Panel on security and development.

No sector of the economy is better positioned to help build peace and development.

  • Every peace agreement includes tourism exchange as one of its first components

    – take Iran’s offer to help rebuild Iraq by sending tourists or India and Pakistan

    restarting relations through air service.

    As for security – writing in the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda the

    Finance Minister of Afghanistan says “ For Thailand it was really Tourism that

    provided a sustainable answer to drug cultivation. For us we must first look at

    security, but then in the medium term its ecotourism”

    Few people know that WTO has quietly been driving tourism activity to help build

    post conflict futures in East Timor, SriLanka, Rwanda and even DPR Korea.

  • And when it comes to development, Tourism is the best option for the world’s

    poorest countries. It’s a universal export in the services sector, where the global

    economy is expanding and where they have so few alternatives. It’s already the

    primary source of foreign exchange in most poor countries – particularly in Africa

    where the need is so great.

    It’s an area where they have comparative opportunity in natural resources,

    culture, and tradition to tap the ecotourism boom. It breeds SME’s &

    entrepreneurs, activates infrastructure and spreads jobs around the country,

    invigorating rural & depressed areas.

    And look at the prospects for the large developing countries such as China, India,

    South Africa & Brazil. Countries who will be massive two way tourism traders over

    the next decade.

WTO is passionate about its commitment to poverty alleviation, embodied in our

strategy of “Liberalization with a Human Face”.

A strategy which responds to the new global Agenda manifest in the Millennium

Development Goals which seek to halve poverty in the world’s poorest countries by

2015. To the Summits of Doha on Trade, Monterrey on Debt Relief, and

Johannesburg on sustainability. And also to the spirit of the Global fora of Davos on

economics, Mumbai on social issues & Barcelona on culture.

Under this strategy, we are linking our Global Code of Ethics to the Millennium

Development Goals. Integrating strategies on fair trade, poverty alleviation &

sustainable development; prioritizing the interests of the world’s poorest nations with

Africa at the fore

In the past two years, WTO has diligently pursued this work. Supporting community

initiatives, working with development agencies & banks, helping countries place

tourism at the core of their Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and putting in place a

new mechanism called ST-EP (Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty) to bring

new funds, research & projects into play.

Leading the WSSD Johannesburg implementation strategy for tourism to create a

framework of indicators & best practice models.

Highlighting fair trade & development benefits in our work with the other WTO, and

initiating export training programmes with the International Trade Centre & UNCTAD.

We have advanced a proposal for expanding air service to what we call Essential

Tourism Development Routes, modeled on US and EU practices and now under joint

study with ICAO. Because you must have adequate competitively priced air service

to get tourism off the ground

And we have launched a dedicated Africa Programme, linked to NEPAD, to give new

resources and increased investment in tourism development.

Our Assembly gave a ringing endorsement to the further intensification of these

efforts within the UN family, convinced that tourism – which links people, builds

livelihoods, supports communities and provides services exports for poor countries –

is well placed to assist in meeting the major challenges facing the world today –

peace, poverty, sustainability and fair trade.

We live in a world, where uncertainty is certain. Where complex issues are becoming

more complicated. Where Summitry is providing a sea change in globalization. And

where the spot-light of the media is strong and tough. As it should be.

During CNN’s travel forum in London the question was raised as to whether the

media was being objective in its coverage. I think it’s the wrong question. The issue

is are we being realistic in our understanding of what we can expect.

We can either bleat & frankly not change anything. Or we can get on with our job,

diligently & openly in the belief that if your strategy is right you will ultimately shine

in the media spotlight. In WTO we believe our “Liberalizing with a Human Face”

strategy is right for our sector and right for our times.

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