By CALEB AYANSINA
…as UNWTO places emphasis on youth tourism
The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke has called on countries around the world to accord greater respect to Nigerians, who travel around the world for several legitimate reasons, describing them as high net worth tourists.
Duke stated this at the Ministerial Roundtable of the 20th General Assembly of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) being jointly hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe with the theme; ‘Visa Facilitation, Connectivity and Relations between Tourism and Air Transport Policies’.
Top on the agenda of the meeting was how to improve tourism development globally, by facilitating entry visas, especially, with regards to Africa and other places, to ensure unhindered connectivity for tourists, thereby promoting youth tourism.
The Minister said that Nigerians’ contributions to tourism globally were an indication that they deserve greater respect.
Duke, who led the Nigerian delegation to the General Assembly, decried the situation where some countries come up with visa policies that impinge on connectivity by making it difficult for some nationals to travel for tourism, business and education.
“I was emphatic because many countries at the Roundtable spoke about using the benchmark for certain countries as yardstick for endorsing tourism in other parts of the world. For instance, you have countries that are not subscribed to the UNWTO Convention, but they are the preferred countries for many tourists, and it is now said that, when you have visas to those countries, you will have non-encumbrance access to those countries.
“My question is what about countries which are members of the UNWTO and are big source markets for Africa, Europe, Asia, North America and South America, and tourists from these are tourists spend big for the economies of the preferred countries. Why are they also not given visa facilitation and treated with great respect,” the Minister asked.
“Often times because of our adventurous spirit and because of our desire to enhance knowledge by traveling to different parts of the world, Nigerians are regular travelers around the world.
This keeps embassies of foreign countries in Nigeria busy and thousands of flight seats are also filled by Nigerians traveling for different purposes including business, education, holiday, shopping and for other legitimate reasons.
“It is therefore, important to treat Nigerians with greater respect, because they contribute significantly to tourist arrivals in very many countries”.
The Minister maintained that the new tourist visa regime put in place by the Federal Government would be diligently pursued, to remove all encumbrances hitherto associated with obtaining the visa to visit Nigeria.
Earlier, at the opening ceremony, the Secretary-General of UNWTO, Dr. Taleb Rifai said though the last two years were marked by slower than expected global economic recovery, a lingering recession in the Eurozone and remarkable geopolitical changes in many parts of the world, international tourism continued to grow, reaching an all-time record.
According to him, “ international tourists arrivals grew by 4% in 2012 and by 5% in the first half of 2013, thus exceeding the UNWTO’s initial forecast for the current year of a 3 -4% growth. On the political level, 2012 reflected our collective efforts to improve tourism’s recognition on the global agenda. World leaders at the G20 Summit in Mexico and Rio+20 UN Decade of Sustainable Development Conference, for the first time, singled out tourism as a driver of economic growth, development and job creation”.
Relating these developments to Africa, the Secretary General revealed that international tourist arrivals in Africa grew from 15 million in 1990 to 52 million in 2012, while exports from international tourism reached US$34 billion in 2012 from a mere 6 billion in 1990, and by 2030 international tourist arrivals to Africa would reach 134 million, almost three times the current number.
Dr. Rifai said: “This 20th General Assembly of our organization is therefore holding at a moment of continued growth in the tourism sector and of increasing political recognition of the role of tourism in contributing to a more sustainable growth.”
Countries call for closer tourism, air transport policies
The General Debate of the 20th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly has put a spotlight on the link between tourism and air transport policies. Countries attending called for closer coordination between both policies highlighting that too often these interlinked sectors are dissociated (Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe, 28 August).
Delegations from the 120 UNWTO Members States intervening at the 20th Session of the UNWTO Assembly discussed air transport policies in their respective countries and called for measures and initiatives to increase connectivity. Countries further called for closer collaboration between tourism and air transport policies. Issues such as visa facilitation, the need to make airports more visitor friendly, taxation, open skies and the impact of low cost airlines were among the issues in debate.
UNWTO has defined connectivity as one of its policy priorities alongside visa facilitation and fair taxation and is working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on advancing these issues as well as those related to addressing climate change, the modernization of aviation regulations and the development of convergent rules for traveller and enterprise protection.
More than one billion tourists crossed international borders during 2012, over half of who travelled by air to their destinations.