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At General Assembly, UNWTO points tourism towards a greener, inclusive future

By Maria Diamond
04 December 2021   |   3:25 am
Innovation, youth empowerment and tourism and rural development took centre stage, as Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez Pérez-Castejón joined UNWTO for the third day of its General Assembly in Madrid.

Innovation, youth empowerment and tourism and rural development took centre stage, as Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez Pérez-Castejón joined UNWTO for the third day of its General Assembly in Madrid.

With the opening days of the most important meeting in global tourism focused on UNWTO’s response to the impacts of the pandemic and uniting members behind its leadership and Programme of Work, the third day looked ahead to a more sustainable and inclusive future for the sector.

Addressing a special Thematic Session, Building for the Future: Innovation, Education and Rural Development, Prime Minister Sánchez recognised the importance of the sector for providing opportunities outside of cities, both in Spain and worldwide, while also reaffirming his Government’s support for UNWTO’s mission.

Also addressing delegates, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “If we are serious about ‘leaving nobody behind’, then we must get serious about innovation, about education and about advancing tourism as a tool for rural development. That means empowering youth, supporting tourism talent, and also giving the best solutions the political and financial support they need to scale up and transform our sector.”

The session included a Ministerial Debate on Politics to Foster Tourism for Rural Development, with insights and inputs from the Ministers of Tourism for Colombia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Paraguay, Slovenia, Tanzania, Spain and Turkey. This was followed by a roundtable on entrepreneurship and innovation in innovation.

Representing Members States were Ministers of Tourism from Chile, Greece, Japan, Jordan, Nigeria, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates, while winners of the UNWTO Global Rural Tourism Startup Competition represented the private sector.

Concluding, a discussion on empowering the tourism leaders of the future, with reference to the UNWTO Students’ League, featured contributions from the Ministers of Tourism for Bulgaria, Lebanon, Maldives and Oman, as well as students themselves.

As well as looking to the future, the General Assembly also celebrated destinations that are already leading the way in making tourism a pillar of rural development and opportunity. From hundreds of entries, 44 villages from 32 countries were named as Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO.