The 15th General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) opened on Monday in the Chinese capital of Beijing with a historic decision as Member States agreed to the organization`s transformation into a specialized agency of the United Nations….
The 15th General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) opened on Monday in the Chinese capital of Beijing with a historic decision as Member States agreed to the organization`s transformation into a specialized agency of the United Nations.
With final approval expected from the UN`s own General Assembly on 7 November, the WTO is set to become the first new specialized agency of the UN since 1985. WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli said it was a momentous occasion for an organization which in its nearly 30 years of existence had overseen a tourism industry that had grown to 703 million international arrivals and 473 billion dollars of expenditure in 2002.
The transformation will give increased visibility to the WTO and greater recognition for the work it does, putting tourism on an equal footing as the other great activities of humanity – industry, agriculture, transport, education, culture, health and labour – for which there already exist leading institutions within the United Nations.
Here in Beijing, and then less than three weeks later in New York, we will be crossing a major threshold in the history of world tourism.
Since its creation, the WTO has reflected and moved with developments in the industry, seeing its membership increase from 84 Member States then to 143 today, he said. The General Assembly on Monday welcomed Bhutan and Lithuania as new members, while Latvia will join in 2005.
In that time the industry has overcome multiple challenges, from wars and terrorism to natural disasters and epidemics, to become an inescapable part of everyday life.
At the official inauguration of the General Assembly by China`s Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao in Beijing`s Great Hall of the People on Sunday night, which was also attended by UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette, Mr Frangialli said it was appropriate that the meeting is being held in China as it is poised to become one of the top (tourism) generating markets.
Ms Frechette said that the UN warmly welcomed the closer ties with WTO and looked forward to the General Assembly`s final approval of the draft agreement.
The deepening of our relationship reflects the growing importance of tourism in today`s globalized world, Ms Frechette added. It recognizes the need for closer co-operation between the UN family and an industry that is inherently multi-dimensional. And it reflects the contribution that WTO can make to the global UN agenda.
The fact that the meeting is being held here and now demonstrates that after the SARS outbreak destinations in the region are once again leading tourism on the track of growth. After two years of varying crises, the rapid recovery was symptomatic of the industry`s resolve to triumph over discouragement, Mr. Frangialli added.
Other important issues to be discussed at the General Assembly include the role of the industry in helping to alleviate poverty through sustainable tourism and the effects of growing consolidation among tourism and travel companies on destinations.
Some 800 delegates from 110 countries are attending the Assembly that closes on Thursday,October 23.
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