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ITB Berlin 2005: WTO To Focus On Tsunami Recovery

Implementation of the emergency plan to assist the tourism industries of countries ravaged by the 26 December tsunami will be the main focus of the World Tourism Organization at the International Tourism Exchange (ITB) in Berlin. Another important objective will be to reaffirm the positive trend in international tourism following the record year of 2004.
Two high-level meetings on tsunami recovery will be held on 10 March, the day before the official opening of ITB. The second meeting of the WTO Emergency Task Force will evaluate the Phuket Action Plan, which was adopted at a special session of the World Tourism Organization Executive Council held on the Thai island on 1 February 2005. This will be followed by a meeting with industry leaders to encourage further cooperation from the private sector.

The main goal of the Phuket Action Plan is to speed recovery in all affected destinations, by restoring traveller confidence in the region. It also aims to help destinations resume normal operations by maximizing the use of existing tourism infrastructure and by helping small tourism-related businesses and employees survive the recovery period. WTO’s partner in the Phuket Action Plan, Visa International, will present findings from its latest survey of tourism trends in the region, while leading tourism officials from Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia and Thailand will update delegates on the latest situation in their countries.

“The Action Plan focuses on the human element in tourism; saving tourism jobs, re-launching small tourism-related businesses, and recovering the visitor flows that make these economies work,” said Francesco Frangialli, WTO Secretary-General. “We were amazed by the unprecedented solidarity shown by the international tourism community in using tourism as an effective means to accelerate recovery and reconstruction in the aftermath of this tragedy. Now we need to bring tourists back to the region, by carefully coordinating activities and preventing that outdated travel advisories issued by some countries do not cause more damage to these destinations.”

“We are convinced that these countries will bounce back soon,” Mr. Frangialli stressed. “However, we must not overlook the need to support the trends of an invigorated tourism sector in other parts of the world.” The Sustainable Tourism - Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) initiative remains top of the WTO agenda, he added, while other leading projects include protection of children from sexual exploitation in tourism and congestion management to enhance visitor satisfaction and the safeguarding of tourism sites, a project being promoted by WTO Affiliate Members who represent the private sector.