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The world celebrates sport and tourism

From Siberia to Patagonia, from Malaysia to Mexico, the international tourism community is celebrated World Tourism Day…

From Siberia to Patagonia, from Malaysia to Mexico, the international tourism community is celebrated World Tourism Day yesterday, dedicated to the convergence of sport and tourism, two living forces for mutual understanding, culture and the development of society.

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced their commitment to reinforce partnerships and collaboration last June, which began in 1999 with an agreement between the two organizations. On the occasion of World Tourism Day the WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli and the IOC President Dr. Jacques Rogge signed a joint message, in which they stressed that sport and tourism share common goals: building bridges of understanding between different cultures, lifestyles and traditions; promoting peace and goodwill among nations; motivating and inspiring young people and providing entertainment and enjoyment to relieve the pressures of daily life to large sections of the population.

Tourism and sport are interrelated and complementary the message reads. Both are powerful forces for development, stimulating investment in infrastructure projects such as airports, roads, stadiums, sports complexes, hotels and restaurants-projects that can be enjoyed by the local population, as well as visitors who come to use them. And once the infrastructure is in place, these two mutually beneficial industries of tourism and sport become the motor for sustainable economic growth, the creation of employment and generation of revenues.

But at the same time, they are activities that bring people together and help forge strong personal relationships. In this way they are making the world a smaller place-contributing to greater understanding among cultures, greater tolerance and, ultimately, to world peace.

Mr. Frangialli praised the successful convergence of sport and tourism at the international conference that concluded a month-long celebration in the WTD host country Malaysia. Many sports enthusiasts still haven`t forgotten the great Commonwealth Games Malaysia hosted in 1998, and the new Formula One racing circuit in Sepang has been a brilliant addition to one of the world`s most prestigious sports, he stressed. Malaysia`s success has no doubt inspired a measure of envy among your competitors, but the overwhelming reaction of the entire international community to your accomplishments has been one of respect and esteem. Just like athletes, tourism destinations are driven by a competitive spirit to achieve the best possible results in international markets. In tourism, however, everyone can be a winner-destinations, tourists and organizations like ours.

Malaysia celebrated World Tourism Day in the beautiful setting of a resort complex in Putrajaya, which is on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur. More than 200 participants, including ministers of tourism, ambassadors and senior officials of national tourism administrations from 18 countries, as well as representatives of the International Olympic Committee and the private sector, attended the International Conference on Sports and Tourism on 27 September.

Re-emphasizing the convergence between sports and tourism, delegates urged the WTO and the IOC, to come up with specific recommendations for action in relation to sports and tourism and to encourage governments to enhance cooperation between these two important forces on national, regional and local levels. Among other subjects discussed, the conference also called upon nations to strive to make greater efforts in using tourism and sports as powerful tools to reduce poverty.

On the same day, Mr. Francesco Frangialli gave a live interview to CNN, during which he presented a positive picture on this year`s international tourism development, stressing the on-going strong recovery of the tourism industry worldwide during the first seven months of the year. He forecasted that tourism would most likely end the year with a growth of over five per cent.

The Secretary-General arrived to Kuala Lumpur from Seoul, where he signed the agreement on Sustainable Tourism – Poverty Elimination (ST-EP) Foundation with the Government of the Republic of Korea and attended the Korean celebration of WTD. After the visit to Malaysia, he will pledge support to tourism development in Iran.

As is tradition, many countries worldwide prepared celebrations on the occasion of WTD, which in the Olympic year is aptly dedicated to sport and tourism. Among events are sport competitions, exhibitions, free entries to museums and sport events, conferences etc.

Puerto Madryn in Patagonia held a whale-watching day for children and seniors on the coast of the El Doradillo Nature Reserve, while Mar del Plata organized a series of seminars on tourism, sport, development and economy. Niger, Venezuela and Curacao prepared a Tourism Week, during which several round tables and conferences, gastronomic festivals and competitions were held. In Mexico, all 32 federal units were involved in the national celebration of WTD. In an effort to promote tourism, Filipinos had the opportunity of visiting museums, parks and tourism attractions free of charge and there were special discounts at facilities such as hotels, restaurants, spas and resorts.

In Europe Luxembourg, a non-WTO member State, traditionally linked sports and tourism with cultural events, along with its artistic and cultural treasures, including music and theatre, which play an essential role in the country, to mark WTD. While Croatia held a football match between the Ministry of the Sea, Tourism, Transport and Development and the Ministry of the Sciences, Education and Sport at the tourist resort of Bjelolasica, Slovenians organized competition in white-water sports and beach volleyball between the tourism professionals and the media representatives at the Alpine river of Soca. Cyprus used the opportunity to give special recognition to the national teams that have chosen the Island of Gods for training prior to the recent Olympic Games in Athens.

Syria commemorated the WTD with traditional Silk Road Festival, featuring symposia and several performances of folklore groups and the food festival.

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