The plenary session of the General Assembly of the 21st. UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) opened on Monday afternoon with Mr Li Jinzao, the Chairman of CNTA taking the floor as the country that will be hosting the 2017 General Assembly. China was followed by the Minister Slechtova of the Czech Republic and David Scowsill, the WTTC President and CEO.
The fourth address delivered in both English and French to a full assembly hall came from Minister Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture.
We reproduce below the speech by Minister Alain St.Ange:-
“We are all gathered in Colombia as nations united for our respective tourism industries, united as nations under the auspices of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, the UNWTO. As I start by congratulating our Secretary General, Mr Taleb Rifai and his Team at the UNWTO for having managed to keep tourism visible as an industry that brings economic stability, the industry that provides employment and the industry that keeps the world connected through people to people contact. I simply say Mr Secretary General thank you for your tireless efforts, thank you for your efforts that has helped keep our industry relevant.
Colleagues, dear friends. Tourism is having a product firstly, and tourism is marketing. But today, we live at a time of great challenges as just a glance at the television will illustrate with multiple security threats occurring across the globe at any one time. And yet, notwithstanding the problems our societies face, we also live at a time of opportunities and one of the major ways that we can enhance the livelihood of our populations, is by way of our tourism industries.
The tourism figures show that more and more people are travelling and there is every indication that they will continue to travel, opening up our planet to the cross-pollination of ideas that inevitably comes as people leave their homes and cross to the other side of the globe. This we simply label as tourism.
We all stand to be touched by modern travel, and by its power of transformation – not only for the visitor but for the visited as well.
We have often touched on the need for us not to allow ourselves to be distracted by the negative side of our ever-swelling global diversity, and the frictions that it can sometimes bring about. It is all too easy to allow ourselves to be mesmerised by this new global phenomenon, and often to be side-tracked by its birth pains and the attention they receive in the all-pervasive media of our modern world.
And yet, if we do not allow ourselves to be distracted, and as the saying goes, concentrate on ‘keeping our eye on the ball’, we begin to see beyond the short-term difficulties to a host of long-term benefits.
Tourism is a major catalyst for change, not only for the individual, but for society as a whole. Tourism allows us a fresh perspective and access to new ideas, access to new concepts and, most important of all, access to dreams which are the very stuff of change.
Today, we say growth of the global tourism industry offers us an opportunity for us to take a major step forward, overcome our differences and capitalise on our diversity.
If we seize this amazing opportunity for growth then tourism can become a major tool for good, and a major good for our future prosperity, because of its inclusionary nature.
Much is made of the fact that tourism and a lack of security cannot exist. The reasons for this are obvious and do not need to be examined here. Indeed there exist a number of sad examples of a country’s tourism industry being damaged by such a lack of security and we must never lose sight of the fact that tourism is vulnerable. Today Mr Secretary General, I am sure I speak on behalf of each and everyone of my colleague Ministers responsible for Tourism when I say that the time is right for the UNWTO to make the drive for security and peace as key words of its mission. We all know that we cannot have tourism without security, and that we cannot have tourism without peace. This is why I said that we need to now consider a new drive to spell out these objectives for the world to hear. A bomb here, a gunman on a train, an explosion their are all one such incident too many. Mr Secretary General, we are all often reminded of Mahatma Ghandi’s famous statement “peace is the most powerful weapon of mankind”. Today we can say that peace and security are the most important unique selling points for any tourism destination. This is why I would like us all to adopt as a way forward, starting with appeals at the UN in New York, messages that spells out the need for peace. The time is now for us to mandate you to create a high level committee under your office to speak even more boldly on peace and security on our behalf to safeguard our industry that cannot survive without this sense of security and without peace. We must get the message across to the Community of Nations at large for everyone to appreciate its importance. This necessity, even though some of us are enjoying peace and stability, like us in Seychelles, we remain islands with an impeccable safety label. Yes islands that remain friends of all and enemies of none.
But Mr Secretary General, in speaking up today, I say that we must also examine the enormous potential of the reverse argument: namely that where a country’s tourism industry has taken deep root in its society, where tourism is balanced and where tourism is inclusionary in nature, tourism provides jobs, tourism improves livelihoods and tourism allows the benefits of win-win tourism to be spread far and wide among the population, then it is no longer in any one’s interest to permit the instability which may upset the applecart – in which case everyone is the loser.
Ladies & gentlemen, this is the kind of tourism we must strive for. This is what we do in Seychelles, our mid-ocean islands where tourism is and remains the pillar of our economy – tourism from the bottom up; tourism that is driven by local communities – their art, their music, their culture, their gastronomy, their carnival of carnivals, that explosion of colour and culture staged every April and in which the Seychellois have vested interest. A tourism they rely upon for their livelihood is one they will be prepared to defend! Seychelles is an example of a safe, secure and Visa free country, Yes. But we are also a trilingual nation where Creole, English and French are all three our Official Languages, so permit me to now address you in French.
(Translated from French) Mr Secretary General, Ladies and Gentlemen. For me coming from a small country that remains dependant on tourism we have no choice but to work for our tourism industry to ensure we deliver as is expected of us by our islands.
Our tourism industry, that has become the pillar of our economy, demands that our country and its people work in total partnership. Today Seychelles is doing well and is recording an increase of 19% in visitor arrival numbers on a year-to-date basis as at the month of August. A vision exists in our islands that rallies the population behind its tourism industry where our culture has been well positioned at the centre of our tourism industry. In putting our culture at the centre of our tourism industry we have in fact placed our people at the centre of our national development, because we can have no culture without our people. Yes we have exceptional unique selling points. Yes we are on firm ground with our tourism industry, but alone the consolidation of our tourism industry will not go far. We all need more than ever before to work within the Community of Nations to better protect our tourism industry and everything that makes it succeed:- aviation, the national parks, our seas that remains clear and clean, our white and clean sandy beaches, our people who are today empowered to be better involved in the development of their country and in the tourism industry of our respective countries.
In the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands (Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, Comoros, Mayotte and Maldives) we continue to develop ways and means to better work together, and in the East3Route, that brings together South Africa KwaZulu Natal, Swaziland, Mozambique and the Seychelles we continue to demonstrate that working together is not only possible but that this spirit of togetherness brings benefits to the population of our respective countries. (end of address in French)
Mr Secretary General I end on this note begging Colleague Ministers to rally even closer than ever before. Rally behind the UNWTO, rally behind your Office, rally with each other as in unity we are strong”.