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Tourism must prepare for avian flu

Tourism has to be ready to participate in the
international fight to contain the effects of avian flu given the
potentially serious threat it poses to the travel industry, Geoffrey
Lipman, Special Advisor to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
Secretary-General, told the Exclusive Travel Conference in Athens last

“We in the tourism sector are fundamentally exposed - both as a result of
market response and potential regulatory controls on movement in affected
regions,” he said.

“We must be prepared to respond positively to global community
initiatives, while seeking to minimize exposure through good planning,
informed dialogue and model response programmes.”

Mr Lipman, who earlier this month represented UNWTO at the international
donor conference in Beijing, where resources and funds were offered to
fight the spread of avian flu, said that as the UN agency responsible for
tourism “UNWTO is gearing up to play its proper part in this global

This involves “working closely with Ministries of Tourism and stakeholders
in the private sector and civil society to build tourism into national
preparedness programmes and to send vital messages through our
communications channels”.


Despite current fears about avian flu, he reassured delegates that tourism
had shown “incredible resilience over the past five years of almost
continual crisis” - from terrorism to recession - “tracking the annual
average growth forecasts of 4% to 5% with remarkable consistency”.

During this period the luxury end of the travel market had proved to be
the most resilient and the fastest growing segment. To support UNWTO in
its mission to help achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals, he called
on travel companies involved in the sector to “share your successes with
those in the world’s poorest countries”.

In the case of Africa, tourism is among the top export earners for the
majority of states and is an industry “that can stimulate jobs and
earnings across an economy,” he said.

By helping Africa to triple its tourism export income by 2015 - compared
to the current forecast of doubling - spending on tourism could also
encourage investment in new infrastructure, especially in aiding health
and rural improvements.