The UNWTO Regional Commission for Asia and the Pacific has expressed its full support and solidarity with the people of Japan in the aftermath of the recent earthquake and tsunami. Holding their annual meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka (24-25 March 2011), UNWTO members from Asia and the Pacific also discussed individual country concerns regarding their tourism sectors in light of persistent global economic challenges.
The 23rd Joint Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for South Asia and the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific adopted a special resolution on Japan, expressing “support to, and solidarity with, the Government of Japan and the Japanese people as a whole”. The resolution stressed support to “Japan’s tourism industry in its endeavours to offer travel assistance to both foreign and local tourists to ensure their safety”.
In his report to the Joint Commission, UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, said that while the recent natural catastrophe in Japan would have a short-term impact on Japanese tourism, “the dynamism and resilience of the tourism sector in Asia will contribute to foster continued growth throughout the region”.
International tourism in Asia and the Pacific grew by more than 13% in 2010, making it the first region to recover from the financial and economic crisis. Against this backdrop, UNWTO expects international tourist arrivals to Asia to grow between 7-9% in 2011. An expanding economy is the primary driver of the tourism boom in both the business and the leisure segments in Asia and the potential for tourism demand is still strong. “Destinations in the region are making significant efforts to tap this potential, putting targeted marketing strategies in place, such as the theme-year initiatives planned for 2011 in Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Nepal, Vietnam and others”, said Mr. Rifai.
The Commission meetings also reviewed the Organization’s programme of work and activities for the region, including the 19th session of the UNWTO General Assembly to be hosted in Asia (Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, 8-14 October 2011).
The Regional Commission was preceded by the UNWTO conference “Mainstreaming Tourism in the Media”, which explored the role of the media in the overall positioning of tourism. Conceived in the broader framework of UNWTO’s efforts to position tourism in the political agenda, conference participants highlighted the importance of making the voice of tourism heard beyond the promotional aspects of destination branding and positioning.
Sri Lanka gaining momentum
Sri Lanka was an appropriate setting for the Regional Commission meetings in the context of UNWTO’s efforts for the improved political positioning of tourism. “Tourism has been identified as one of the drivers of our economic development and the international image building of our country”, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, Deputy Minister of Economic Development of Sri Lanka, told delegates.
“Your country is one of the most recent examples of the positive contribution that tourism can make to societies and their development, having achieved a spectacular growth of 46% in 2010 alone”, said Mr. Rifai.