By Jimoh Babatunde
PeopleÂ working in the travel industry and thoseÂ who want to catch up on the most beautiful travel destinations gatheredÂ yet again in Berlin, the capital city of Germany forÂ this yearÂ´sÂ ITB travel fair which opened Wednesday.
The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) was there as usual to representÂ NigeriaÂ as its participation was commended by notable tour operators.
The ITB, aÂ combination of trade exhibition, public exhibition and the biggest professional convention worldwide attracts tens of thousands of visitors, exhibitors and media representatives every year.
Working together to ensure that global policies are supportive of the sustainable growth of tourism and position travel and tourism as one industry speaking with one voice were some of the challenges highlighted by UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai, speaking on the occasion of the opening of this yearâ€™s ITB Travel Trade Show.
ITB 2010 kicks off as the tourism industry is starting to leave behind one of the most difficult years of its history, after international tourist arrivals fell by 4 percent in 2009, while earnings are estimated to have fallen by approximately 6 percent.
The return of growth to international tourism in the last quarter of 2009 and the first results from January 2010 suggest that recuperation is underway. In this framework, UNWTO forecasts a growth of 3 percent to 4 percent in international tourist arrivals for 2010.
â€Though there are positive signs emerging from the global economy, we all recognize that recovery is still weak, uneven, easily reversible, and that many downside risks remain,â€ said Mr. Rifai. â€œIt is, therefore, key to devise ways for tourism to be well positioned in any new economic cycle,â€ he added.
At the same time, Mr. Rifai highlighted the lessons learned from the UNWTO Roadmap for Recovery process: countries which were quick in reacting to and implementing measures to mitigate the crisis have seen that their initiatives have made a difference.
He also recalled that â€œtourism can rapidly create jobsâ€ inviting the sector to consider a â€œcollective initiative that stimulates the preservation and creation of decent jobs and qualifies human resources to be part of the transformation to the green economy.â€
In considering the roots of the still persisting challenges, Mr. Rifai said, â€œIt seems that our global economic order and our global ecological balance are both challenged at the same time.â€ He added, â€œThe entire development model of the last 60 years seems to be unsustainable and in question.â€
Against this backdrop, UNWTO secretary-general underscored that â€œrecent developments have revealed some of the structural weaknesses of our sector, both within the private and the public realms.â€
Meanwhile, the CEO, Houston Travel Services of South Africa, Derek HoustonÂ has commended the Director general, NTDCÂ for the visibility he has given to Nigerian brand at internationl tevel exhibitions in recent years.
Speaking while in company of Simon Beck, regional Account manager Asia and Africa of World Travel market, derek Houston explained that Nigerian stand at the fair in ITB is betterÂ compared to what used to obtained.
He noted that with the awareness already created about the country by NTDC that it will be easy to sell Nigeria by tour operators,Â â€œwith the awareness and more airlines flying into Nigeria, the country can now attract conference tourists.â€
Houston said with the new Eko Hotel expo centreÂ that the country is now placed in an advantageous positionÂ attract conference tourism which is a high earning business compared to leisure tourism