Increased economic liberalization has to go hand in hand with the sustainable development of tourism. It is “a necessary corollary to increased liberalization as much as a response to the steady growth in the number of visitors”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli at the World Tourism Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
The number of international tourist arrivals has grown from 25 millions in 1950, to 806 million in 2005, according to UNWTO figures. The receipts generated by these arrivals have outgrown the world economy as a whole, reaching some 682 billion dollars in 2005.
This considerable and continued expansion has placed tourism in one of the top categories of international services trade. Depending on the year, this trade volume equals or exceeds that of oil exports, food products, or even that of cars and transport equipment.
Tourism has been increasingly recognised for its economic potential to contribute to poverty reduction in developing countries. The geographical expansion and labour intensive nature of tourism supports a spread of employment which can particularly benefit Least Developed Countries.
In the Doha Development Round more states have proposed commitment in tourism than any other services area, acknowledging that liberalization of this sector could provide significant benefits for the world’s poorest countries in terms of poverty alleviation and sustainable development.
“We must respond positively and creatively to the opportunities and challenges that are being engendered by the liberalization and growing internationalization of tourism trade”, said Francesco Frangialli. “We must capitalise on the opportunity to use tourism as a tool for poverty reduction but avoid the irreversible deterioration of sites and over-use of natural resources the exploitation of workers”, he added.
UNWTO’s White Paper on “Liberalization with a Human Face” is designed to better position tourism in the trade and export arena. UNWTO assists Member States in the negotiations relating to the Doha Development Agenda, identifying tools for developing countries to enable them to assess liberalization and draft national competition laws in the field of tourism.