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Georgia lays out a plan for UNWTO’s future

Georgia lays out a plan for UNWTO’s future

UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai will resign in 2017 and so far two candidates came forward wanting to take over the top post in the United Nations World Tourism Organization. One candidate is from  Georgia. He is  H.E. Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili,  Ambassador of Georgia to the Kingdom of Spain, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). He revealed his plan for the future of UNWTO under his proposed leadership.

Statement of Intent and Management

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has become an efficient platform providing leadership, guidance and support to the tourism sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide.

Tourism has become the stepping-stone of nations’ economies and has turned into an effective mechanism to fight poverty around the globe. The sector has transformed cultural differences into alliances and has opened opportunities, assumed to have been gone forever.

With the rapid development of the tourism industry, it is of utmost importance for member states, associate and affiliate members, and the UNWTO overall, to maintain a commitment to sustainability and competitiveness. Looking to the future, we have to understand that the choices our nations make today will undoubtedly affect future generations. This is a responsibility that the UNWTO has proudly upheld for numerous years, and will continue to pursue.

Considering the aforementioned and building on the tremendous success of the organization, it is time to usher in a new era of applied initiatives. The UNWTO will put emphasis on concrete projects with tangible outcomes to further support its members in an era of innovation, knowledge-sharing, and entrepreneurship.

FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES AND STRATEGIC CHANGES

The UNWTO has become a staple of success in the tourism sector; the organization has paved the way for achievements of numerous nations, organizations and consequently people. The success stories of the organization have raised its visibility and importance throughout the world as well as increased awareness of its actions, while higher demand for support from the organization has led to increased functions.

Looking ahead, it should be our priority to pursue result-oriented changes and innovations and ensure that the UNWTO further rises to the challenges that countries face on national, regional and global levels.

The tourism sector is changing dynamically; today we are faced with social and cultural phenomena, which are re-shaping the industry, and it is important that we further understand and adapt to these changes. New challenges require new approaches and the UNWTO has to adjust to the upcoming encounters.

In this light, strategic changes need to be implemented on four fronts of the organization:

  • Internal
  • External
  • Socio-economic
  • Sustainability.


The aforementioned four undertakings will bring the UNWTO and the tourism industry to new heights of progress, achievement, and visibility.

INTERNAL SHIFTS

Considering that the UNWTO will be moving into a new era of more flexible and pragmatic implementation of projects, the internal workings of the organization will need to focus on the same goals.

The organization will adopt a new dynamic approach to implementing projects and supporting nations on a practical level. With this, the internal staff, alongside their existing tasks, will follow the new goal of helping member states, associate, and affiliate members to learn and take advantage of the offering that the UNWTO presents.

With this, the agenda and work-flow of the UNWTO will also be expanded to further support the aforementioned mission.

EXTERNAL ADJUSTMENTS

The UNWTO will be undertaking a new feat of supporting countries not just on the national and regional level, but will become more approachable to provide guidelines on management and marketing for different types of tourism destinations in order to ensure further growth and competitiveness.

The organization will consequently become a reference point for destination marketing and management organizations, both on national as well as local level.

With this, the UNWTO will continue to support the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, the prime principles to encourage tourism’s socio-economic contribution and manage possible impacts, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

SOCIAL PERSUASION AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC BENEFITS

Within the most recent years, it has become abundantly clear that apart from its direct economic benefits, the tourism sector can serve as an applied and effective mechanism in the fight against poverty worldwide; it has the capability and potential to empower communities and restore hope to those most in need.

In this light, it is our inherent and unwavering priority to continue on this path, to raise social awareness about tourism, persuade communities about the potential of the sector and assist their empowerment.

SUSTAINABILITY

Sustainability and protection of the environment have long been at the center of the work of the UNWTO. We have had success with reshaping the 10-Year Framework Program activities to support sustainable policies, actions and practices. Now that we have the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved, it marks another substantial step forward.

Although we have had considerable achievements, the issue of sustainable development remains a concern. We have to achieve a higher level of understanding of sustainability and have to exemplify that development is not hindered by sustainable practices or policies and that without sustainability at its core, no development is worth the tradeoff.

In order to achieve the aforementioned strategic objectives, I have identified seven priority issues which will become the focal points of my vision for the next four years.

1. Benefits for the member states, associate and affiliate members

Within the past decade the UNWTO has grown both in popularity and in members. Today, the organization unites 157 countries, 6 associate members and over 500 affiliate members. These members represent the diversity of ideas, resources, challenges and successes of the organization.

Focusing on member states, it is particularly important to understand that nations at various levels of development with regards to the tourism industry are sometimes faced with similar challenges.

Even in cases when challenges posed might be similar or relevant to a group of nations, the solutions presented in each country might be fundamentally different. To this point, the UNWTO needs to dive deeper and identify not only similar challenges; but cases where similar challenges have been resolved in similar environments; thus, presenting nations with the guidelines of practical steps to be undertaken to overcome their barriers.

In order to achieve this goal, alongside the UNWTO, affiliated members of the organization will play a key role thanks to their knowledge, research and practices.

By emphasizing the pragmatic benefits of UNWTO membership, the organization will be able to continue its growth in terms of members and uphold its key role as the frontrunner for tourism.

2. Continued integration with the United Nations

We have seen continued integration of the UNWTO with the agenda of the United Nations; this is a tremendously important process, as it provides the opportunity to present the key concerns, vision and sustainability initiatives on the world platform.

With this, the celebration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development has to be viewed as one of the key successes for the industry and the UNWTO. It truly outlines the scope of the sector and will further raise awareness about possibilities and advancements, within the UNWTO, member states, and associate and affiliate members.

With this, we have to consider the unfortunate fact that in today’s world tourists need to be more wary of their travel environment. This is the reason why the UNWTO needs to continue its work to promote safe and seamless travel, and especially elevate its efforts with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). This will further support the integration of tourism into the emergency and security mechanisms; supporting safer and more secure travel practices across the globe. The UNWTO also need to continue supporting initiatives such as the joint campaign “Your Actions Count – Be a Responsible Traveler” launched in 2014, which supported the fight against illegal trafficking in its various forms and relevant issues.

Alongside other undertakings, we have to once again focus on pragmatic projects, and I truly believe that the declaration of 2018 as the European Year of Tourism and Cultural Heritage, and similar initiatives that involve concrete benefits, value and support, are the types of activities that will bring forward new successes for the UNWTO.

3. Enhancements in technology and its effects on tourism

We have to take into account continuous and dynamic development of technology in tourism. This process will only accelerate in the future, and as social behavior follows new trends, we will be faced with a new playfield. I strongly believe that cooperation and knowledge sharing is the only way we will have an opportunity to better understand the future travel behaviors and patterns.

The technology of today is already driving masses to new destinations, sometimes to places rarely explored by travelers, thus we have to seize this opportunity and create new destination management and marketing models to take advantage of these new platforms and support competitiveness, rather than dismissing their impact.

4. New dimension of support on local level

We are more aware of tourism’s effects and relations to other sectors than we have ever been before. We understand the delicate cohesion between local level destination marketing and management to the overall success and development of the tourism industry in nations. We are aware of the particularities and challenges of various destinations, and at the same time, we understand the reasoning behind successes and “best practices” of other destinations.

Considering the aforementioned, we need to enter a new phase of analyzing local level destination marketing and management practices. The UNWTO will not only focus on nations’ competitiveness regionally and globally, but will also have to place emphasis on local-level development. The UNWTO’s key role in this regard will be to analyze similar local level destination cases, not only in terms of successful practices, but also by identifying success stories in similar economic, social, environmental and tourism development level cases.



This is particularly important because, as mentioned before, in order to support tourism development, we need to understand its effects and consider available resources in other relevant sectors. In this light, nations on the local level will have a guideline of relevant practices implemented in similar destinations, in similar environments, and at a similar development level.

5. Raise social awareness, persuading communities and assisting their empowerment

Tourism is a people-based service sector and we have to underline that communities are our greatest assets. We have reached a tipping point when most nations around the globe are convinced of the power of tourism, and its ability to change the lives of thousands, if not millions of people.

With this in mind, it has become a priority to go a step further and bring the message of tourism directly to the people, the communities, and societies. We have to persuade the people that their everyday livelihoods could be significantly improved by opening up to new opportunities.

We have seen the rise of homestay programs, the success of charity tourism, and what effects they might have on people’s lives. We have to understand that these are new and innovative approaches, which represent the core values of our humanity, and we need to support and praise such undertakings, alongside other successes.

Considering the aforementioned, further emphasis needs to be placed on fostering education and skills on a local level. This, in turn, will facilitate employment, entrepreneurship and better lives for those that need the support of their fellow people.

6. Addressing environmental concerns

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change are the prime examples of global sustainable agendas for the benefit of our nations, our peoples and our planet as a whole.

Although tourism has a special role to play in this regard, the UNWTO needs to emphasize its involvement in policy-making, global agenda setting and “best practices” identification processes. To this point, with the announcement of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, we have been given a great opportunity to support sustainability at its core, to display and exemplify what the sector can and will do to support the global sustainable agenda.

7. Development and sustainability cohesion

Considering that sustainability is a core concern for almost all nations, we have to understand the reasons why development and sustainable practices are not implemented simultaneously in all cases. The three major issues in this field are still lack of knowledge, lack of resources (be it fiscal or non-fiscal) and the mistaken concern that sustainability might hinder swift development.

These three issues, in particular, seem to be on the minds of every developing nation. While the UNWTO may not have the power or the authority to resolve all three of them at once, we do have the unique position of being the reference point and the trendsetter for resolution of these issues.

The UNWTO is already active in the preparation of relevant documents and publications about sustainable practices, but in today’s dynamic world the publications are not enough to support destinations, and international level expertise is usually only available for a limited amount of time. Thus, we need to aim to facilitate the process of developing local and national level expertise, which will support destinations by bringing most innovative and latest practices to their doorsteps and be available to assist the destination when required. This can be done through a series of training-for-trainers courses or task teams – comprised of both member states and affiliate members.

With limited resources, nations are faced with the difficult decision of allocating the priority to sustainable practices. The UNWTO’s key role in this regard has to become the exemplification that with limited resources, it is to the benefit of a destination to allocate them more strategically and implement projects in a more sustainable way, as these will lead to fewer expenses in the future. Destinations need to focus on creating long-term assets rather than long-term liabilities, and sustainability is the crucial factor in this decision.

Finally, we have to address the misleading opinion that sustainability hinders or in some ways forms barriers for development. While it is true that in some cases implementation of sustainable practices might be a time-consuming initiative, we have to highlight the risks and dangers of not applying the aforementioned practices accordingly. We have to assist the destinations to be courageous enough to handle the sustainability concerns today before they become worse issues tomorrow. Postponement of these initiatives will lead to more costly and more difficult issues, while becoming a catalyst for the destruction of cultural heritage, natural and environmental ecosystems.

Considering my aforementioned agenda, I truly believe that together the member states and the UNWTO Secretariat as the leading group will be able to fully utilize the potential opportunities and strength of the organization.

I commit myself to uphold the values of the UNWTO, together with this agenda, and seek the valuable support of my fellow colleagues, friends and distinguished individuals – as if elected, I plan to do my utmost to strengthen the UNWTO and achieve the goals which we, as individual states, are at a disadvantage to accomplish.

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