European UNWTO Member States have highlighted the importance of jobs, skills training, sustainability and innovation as they jointly guide the recovery of tourism in the region.
The 67e meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Europe (Yerevan, Armenia, 1-3 June 2022) convened as the restart of European tourism gathered pace. Of the 47 countries around the world that have lifted all travel restrictions, 31 are in Europe. Against this backdrop, Member States have looked to the future to address both short-term challenges and longer-term opportunities for tourism to thrive as a driver of sustainable and inclusive development.
High-level representatives from 35 Member States and many representatives of the European and global tourism private sectors have had an overview of UNWTO’s work in the region since the last Regional Commission meeting in Athens in June 2021.
From the beginning of the pandemic until the recovery phase of the crisis, Europe has shown the example by supporting and reviving tourism
Opening the session, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Hambardzum Matevosyan called tourism a “locomotive” for recovery and opportunity, both in Europe and globally. As Armenia celebrates 25 years as a UNWTO Member State, Mr. Matevosyan hails the Organization’s work to bring together the public and private sectors and to make tourism a pillar of the Development Agenda by 2030. UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili personally met President of Armenia Vahagn Khachaturyan with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzooyan, acknowledging their leadership and support to tourism and discussing ways in which UNWTO can further support the country as it grows its tourism in size and importance, with a focus on investment and rural development.
The session was also opened by Armenia’s Economy Minister, Vahan Kerobyan, and Sofia Zacharaki, Greek Deputy Minister of Tourism and current Chair of the UNWTO Regional Commission. Ms. Zacharaki also praised UNWTO’s leadership during the crisis and stressed that the determination to revive tourism for economic recovery “must not trump our efforts to become more sustainable”.
UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “From the start of the pandemic to the recovery phase of the crisis, Europe has led by example in supporting and reviving tourism. At the heart of this is cooperation and coordination, the same spirit that must drive all European destinations forward as they use the power of tourism to drive development and growth for all.
Ms. Sisian Boghossian, Chairperson of the Tourism Committee of the Ministry of Economy, underlined: “Armenia reaffirms its commitment to cooperate effectively with all UNWTO Member States to achieve the common goals aimed at implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Tourism is a priority sector of the economy in Armenia which is not only defined in the law on tourism but also expressed in the political agenda and included in the program of the government”.
The Secretary-General provided an up-to-date overview of the latest data and trends in international tourism and explained how, even in difficult times, UNWTO has advanced its priority areas of work, with a focus on boosting tourism investment , promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, tourism jobs and education. and accelerate sustainability.
UNWTO Regional Director for Europe, Alessandra Priante, highlighted ongoing initiatives and future regional implementation of UNWTO’s work programme, stressing the importance of fostering a successful methodology of cooperation with and within the most visited region of the world: Europe. She highlighted flagship projects focused on youth, with the first Global Youth Tourism Summit to be held in Sorrento, Italy, student leagues in different European countries and on rural development, with the 2nd edition of World’s Best Tourist Villages following the initiative’s great successes in 2021 and UNWTO’s technical assistance projects supporting the revival of tourism for sustainable and responsible growth were other highlights.
As part of the high-level political discussion, delegates stressed the need to balance short-term measures to enable a rapid recovery in tourism, including addressing labor shortages, making jobs more attractive and retaining the right talent with sustainability imperatives including measurement, investment in tourism education and capacity building.
Tourism and rural development
On the occasion of the Commission meeting, UNWTO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with the support of the Government of Armenia, joined forces to prepare the ground for a discussion on the role of tourism in rural development and how to create greater synergies between agriculture and tourism.
With a particular focus on design thinking to improve local experiences and add value to destinations, gastronomy and wine tourism, the event highlighted the need to work on infrastructure, governance, product development , collaborative frameworks, quality and market access, digitization and capacity building. With the participation of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the conference highlighted the value of protecting intellectual property and the value of local products and processes. The event ended with a masterclass on gastronomic tourism to support knowledge and capacity building of Member States and stakeholders in Armenia.
Members of the region have unanimously agreed that Bulgaria will host the 68th session of the UNWTO Regional Commission in 2023.