UNWTO to host first ICAO & UNWTO Tourism Ministers Summit

UNWTO to host first ICAO & UNWTO Tourism Ministers Summit

Mr. Taleb Rifai, the Secretary General of the UNWTO (UN World Tourism Organization) said, as he addressed the 5th edition of INVEST TOUR, the tourism investment and business forum for Africa that was again held in Madrid as part of FITUR 2014, that for the first time, the UNWTO and ICAO are joining together to organise a meeting for African ministers of tourism and also for ministers of transport to sit together and to look at air transport with tourism in mind.

The Secretary General of the UNWTO said that this meeting of tourism and transport ministers will and should help align civil aviation and tourism. Mr. Rifai went on to say that tours must be facilitated if it is to be developed and consolidated.

It is now a few months already since Minister Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture, had been working with the UNWTO and with ICAO to bring this historic meeting to Seychelles. “This public announcement today was indeed welcome. We are a small country sitting in the middle of an ocean that remains dependent on tourism for our survival. Air transport continues, therefore, to be a vital ingredient for our successful tourism industry,” Minister St.Ange said to the press after the announcement that the joint UNWTO ICAO meeting for tourism and transport ministers from Africa will be held in Seychelles.

Elsia Grandcourt, the Director for Africa at the UNWTO, also addressed the INVEST TOUR Conference and again reiterated the two big tourism meetings of 2014. Mrs. Grandcourt said: “I am pleased to inform you that the issue of air transport will be taken to the Regional Seminar to be held in April in Angola on the occasion of the 56th meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa, which in turn is one of the preparatory activities for the mint UNWTO and ICAO African Tourism and Transport Ministerial Conference, to be held in Seychelles later this year. An increased coordination between tourism and air transport policies is central to tourism development in general, bur even more in Africa where access is still a major barrier to growth. We trust this plan of activities will help us advance this objective,” the Director for Africa at the UNWTO said.

Discussions that followed spoke on the need for aligning civil aviation and tourism for the success of the tourism industry. “Tourism must be facilitated,” was the clear message echoed.

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Andre Muntane, Head of Network Planning&Distribution for Air Europa, and Miquel Alimbaou, the Regional Marketing Manager for Turkish Airlines, also addressed the air access issue for the INVEST TOUR panel that followed on air connectivity and visa facilitation as key factors for Africa`s tourism development.

Mr. Muntane used an example where a country kept a new airline from taking passengers on its stop only because of a power struggle between government Ministries in that country as the airline suffered with a loss of income, and the economy of the country and its tourism industry suffered. The Air Europa representative spoke about liberalisation and deregulation policies to ensure freedom rights and to foster competition instead of protecting national airlines which often results with negative effects on the country`s tourism industry. “Deregulation brings movement and growth,” Mr. Muntane said.

On his part, Miquel Alimbaou of Turkish Airlines said that competition for airlines stimulates the market and grows traffic. “Competition is good and keeps the airlines up to date,” Mr. Alimbaou said.