Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

09 April 2013

Secretary-General's message to World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit [delivered by Mr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization]

It is my pleasure to greet the delegates to the Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Tourism employs millions of people across the world, generates commerce and trade and lifts communities out of poverty.  It brings people of all backgrounds together to build bridges and share memorable experiences.  With its immense expansion and resilience, tourism has become one of the most important economic sectors and social activities of our times.

Yet the more relevant one becomes, the more responsibility one holds.

Tourism accounts for 45 per cent of the exports in services of the developing countries, and thus can help the developing world play a more active and competitive part in the global economy.

Tourism can and must play a role in our shared efforts to build a more sustainable world.  Each time you plan a new hotel, buy a fleet of airplanes or make other big investments, I urge you to take greater account of the local and global environment.  Greening the industry is crucial to its future, and the planet’s.

Last year we reached an historic mark: more than one billion tourists crossed international borders.  We must ensure that these movements are a transformative force -- a force that builds peace, stimulates the economy, preserves the environment and promotes universal values.

The recent economic crisis has reminded us that we face three interdependent challenges – to promote sustained economic growth, to ensure social development, and to safeguard the global environment.  At last year’s Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, world leaders recognized that tourism can make significant contributions in all three areas.  But realizing this great potential requires common efforts and strong commitments.  In that spirit, I invite you to join the UN family in this endeavour by working with the World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, our specialized agency for tourism.  Together, we can make the global movement of people called tourism change millions of lives and help us build the world we want.