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WTO policy forum: tourism is top priority in fight against poverty

Governments, international aid agencies and the world`s leading universities agreed at a World Tourism Organization (WTO) Forum in Washington D.C….

Governments, international aid agencies and the world`s leading universities agreed at a World Tourism Organization (WTO) Forum in Washington D.C. to make sustainable tourism development a top priority in their strategis to reduce poverty and meet other UN

Millennium Development Goals
, such as gender equality and environmental conservation.

The policy forum Tourism`s Potential as a Sustainable Development Strategy, held on 19-20 October, marked the first time that donor agencies, developing countries and the academic community met together at such a high-level international conference to look for ways to cooperate and harness the economic power of tourism for sustainable development, using knowledge-based policies.

Organized by WTO and The George Washington University-chair of the WTO Education Council-the forum attracted 200 participants and more than 200 observers from 52 countries, including 20 tourism ministers or top-level government officials.

In the 49 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) tourism has become the main source of foreign exchange earnings but tourism receipts in these countries still represent only 1% of the world total, so the potential for growth is enormous, said WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli. International tourist arrivals topped 700 million last year and receipts reached US$514 billion, with WTO predicting 900 million arrivals by 2010.

The forum was opened by the president of the Inter-American Development Bank Enrique Iglesias, and World Bank Vice-President James Adams. Both speakers said tourism has become a high priority in the countries where they operate-because it creates jobs, brings in hard foreign currency and provides an economic incentive for protection of the environment. But they also agreed that the complex, multifaceted nature of tourism presents special challenges for donor agencies as well as governments, such as:

  • Ensuring good cooperation and communication among diverse departments with a stake in tourism development, such as environment, culture, infrastructure and transportation
  • Creating and maintaining strong partnerships to make tourism projects sustainable
  • Developing analytical measurement tools to evaluate the success or failure of sustainable tourism development projects

To help address some of those issues, WTO announced the creation of its new ST-EP Foundation, which stands for Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty and is set to begin operations next year. ST-EP will finance new research and new development projects that link sustainable tourism to the UN Millennium Development Goals, especially poverty alleviation. The foundation, to be based in Seoul, aims to attract US$100 million in financing and sponsor 5,000 projects by 2015. It is being launched with US$5 million in seed money donated by the Korean Culture and Tourism Policy Institute.

The forum was also addressed by a variety of bilateral donor agencies, such as USAID, DGSC/MAE Italy, AECI Spain, DGCID/MAE France, SNV Netherlands, GZT Germany, CIDA Canada, JICA Japan, and the Global Environmental Fund. All participating agencies agreed to form a Global Network help them work more closely together in the future.

USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios stressed the need for community involvement to ensure tourism is sustainable. Properly planned tourism requires good natural resource management and good local governance to protect and enhance the resources on which it depends, he said, adding that USAID offers training in these areas because capacity building is the essence of development.

WTO and The George Washington University took advantage of the forum to sign an agreement launching a new internet project called DANTEI, which stands for Development Assistance Network for Tourism Economic Initiatives. DANTEI is a website designed to increase communication and the exchange of information about sustainable tourism projects.

Preceding the forum, the US State Department hosted a briefing for tourism ministers from WTO Member States, pledging its commitment to sustainable tourism and offering assistance to the developing world.

Opened by John Turner, US Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and the WTO Secretary-General, the briefing was attended by 15 tourism ministers or top-level officials from Andorra, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Jordan, Kenya, Lesotho, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, and South Korea.

Representatives of eight US agencies outlined programmes they have in place to provide international financing or expertise in sustainable tourism development. Typical projects include national parks management, rural tourism development, planning, infrastructure construction, and

political risk insurance.

Co-Founder & Managing Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network

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