Advancing public-private partnerships and incorporating sustainability in all operations are cross-cutting challenges shared by the tourism authorities of the Americas.
Gathered at the 57th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for the Americas in Cartagena de Indias, delegations from 19 countries and around 100 private sector representatives took stock of the region’s tourism and outlined the path to ensure that tourism’s benefits contribute to the sustainable development of the region. (Colombia, 25 June 2014).
The Meeting was chaired by the Vice Minister for Tourism of Colombia, Sandra Howard Taylor, who underscored the commitment of the Americas to further strengthen its tourism sector as well as its contribution to the international tourism agenda. Hosting this year’s official World Tourism Day Celebrations in Mexico (27 September) and the 21st Session of the UNWTO General Assembly in Medellín, Colombia in 2015, are but two examples of this political commitment, she said.
UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, commended the fact that tourism is a clear priority for Colombia recalling that the inclusion of the sector in its National Development Plan 2011-2014 is a strong reflection of “tourism’s capacity to foster regional integration and development and promote the image of the country”. Mr Rifai also welcomed Colombia’s commitment to international tourism, highlighting that Colombia is “the country to welcome a UNWTO General Assembly twice in such a short period of time, after hosting the 17th Session in Cartagena in 2007.”
The Seminar on Public-Private Partnerships: Developing Specialized Tourism Products and the International Forum on Sustainable Development of Tourism and Innovation, both held in conjunction with the Commission Meeting, were an opportunity to look into howthe sector can advance innovation and incorporate sustainability along its value chain.
“Both tourism destinations and companies need to adapt to a constantly evolving market, while safeguarding natural and cultural tourism assets and ensuring that the benefits from tourism are shared with the host communities in a fair and equitable way”, said Mr. Rifai. “Sustainable tourism development is the challenge ‘par excellence’ of our sector, but it will only remain an ideal without the concerted effort of all tourism stakeholders”, he added.
Participants in the Forum underscored that tourism development should be based on sustainability criteria, highlighting in particular the role of public awareness, education and training as keys to moving towards sustainability.
The 58th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for the Americas will be held in Haiti, which will host this gathering for the first time.
The Americas accounts for a 16% share of international tourists worldwide (168 million) and a 20% share of receipts (US$ 230 billion). In 2013, international tourist arrivals to the Americas increased by 3% while export earnings from tourism grew by 6%.