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14 / 07 / 2004
The players in the tourism business meeting at the forum seek a commitment with sustainability and cultural diversity

“This is an ambitious dialogue that wishes to include in its final declaration a commitment with tourism that links up with sustainability and diversity,” stated Tomás de Azcárate, the director of the dialogue on “Tourism, Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development” that began today within the Forum Barcelona 2004. Also attending the meeting with the press to present the dialogue were Francesco Frangialli, secretary general of the World Tourism Organization and Jafar Safari, chair of the dialogue’s scientific committee.

The organizers of the dialogue “Tourism, Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development”, which is expected to gather some 2,000 participants emphasized that the event will bring together for the first time “all sectors of this huge sector of the world’s economy” and will be an opportunity to discuss “issues related with tourism and its social responsibility towards the world’s cultural and natural heritage. Besides being the leading sector of the world economy, “tourism has a tremendous potential to transform the lives of the communities since it is one of the world’s main activities,” said Frangialli. He also stated that there were over 700 million international travels measurable by an economic impact of 514 billion dollars.

“We expect to witness an increased pressure over the environment and local communities and therefore we must think of sustainability and about applying the rules of our Global Code of Ethics that was approved in 1999,” pointed Frangialli. “It is not possible to have sustainability without raising awareness among tourists, the administration and the tour operators and travel agents,” emphasized Azcárate while adding, “tourist destinations must be treated in a sustainable way. We cannot go a long way without respecting the cultural values of each place.” In this respect the dialogue director referred to the crisis of tourism in the Balearic and the Canary islands due to a diversified offer and a very little involvement with the heritage of both communities.

Jafari, for his part, denounced the devastating consequences of the so-called “ecotourism” in some places of great environmental value. “This offer created a range of destinations that had were seldom visited and some tour operators opened to the market environmentally fragile natural sites where facilities and hotels were built in detriment of nature,” he assured. “Nowadays many tour operators realize their mistake and this situation is being dealt with. They now understand that self-regulation is important if we don’t want regulation enforced by third parties,” he added. In his opinion, sustainable ecotourism must respect the limits and the capacities of nature.”

Recovery of the sector
Frangialli also showed optimism for the strong recovery of the sector following a “very strange” period in the aftermath of 9 / 11, the world economic crisis and the attacks on tourists and the epidemics registered in Asia. “We are expecting a 5% to 10% increase in international travel,” reported the expert, who was even surprised at the 16% increment in travels to the Middle East. In Frangelli’s opinion, the recovery of international travel – a sign of good health for the tourist sector – is due to the strength of the economies of countries like the U.S., Japan and the Asian continent and “because the difficulties of the last three years have not made the need for travel disappear. Until now many trips were cancelled for fear, but these are being rescheduled as the global situation begins to go back to normal,” stated the representative of the World Tourism Organization. The organization became an official UN body last December in recognition for the social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects of tourism.