UNWTO Europe meeting looks to the future
The UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) Commission for Europe has gathered to discuss major tourism trends as well as its priorities and agenda for the region.
Representatives of 34 countries gathered for the commission’s 60th meeting, which took place in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and was followed by a seminar on new business models.
In his opening address, Taleb Rifai, UNWTO’s Secretary-General, acknowledged the industry’s increasing importance to the European economy, as well as the challenges it faces in the light of changing technology and market practices.
“In 2015, there were 29 million more international tourists in Europe than the previous year, raising the total in the region to 609 million. At a time when economic recovery is still quite slow, tourism has been a major contributor to the European economy, generating €404 billion in exports,” he said.
“Although the sector continues to progress, many challenges face us. These include a rapidly changing consumer market, the impact of technology, the emergence of new business models, manmade and natural crises, and the quest to make our sector more sustainable and more responsible.”
Evaldas Gustas, Minister of Economy of Lithuania and Vice-Chair of the UNWTO Commission for Europe, said: “Tourism in Lithuania has large growth potential and after this event we have even more stimulus to keep promoting our country and look for new possibilities to support tourism.”
Safe, secure and seamless travel, the role of tourism in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in 2017 were all discussed at the Commission meeting.
The following seminar explored the impacts of new business models, and in particular of the so-called ‘sharing economy’, on the tourism sector, and how ‘traditional’ businesses are responding. Speakers included BeMyGuest, the Lithuanian Hotels and Restaurants Association, Room Mate Hotels, TripAdvisor, ReviewPro, HOTREC, NBTC Holland Marketing, the European Commission, the Tourism Chamber of the Republic of Lithuania and Airbnb. Participants agreed that the opportunities afforded by new business models should be embraced but that measures should be taken to ensure both a level playing field and the protection of consumers.
During his visit to Lithuania Rifai also met Lithuanian private sector representatives and the Chamber of Commerce. “Sustainable measures and other tourism policies should be applicable to all business models, so that all stakeholders across the value chain hold the same level of responsibility with regard to the sector,” he said. “Only by working in cooperation and by building bridges will the tourism community be able to capitalise on the strong potential of the sector.”
In 2015, Europe remains the world’s most visited region with 609 million international tourist arrivals (51 per cent of the world’s total). International tourism generated €404 billion in exports, three per cent more than in 2014.