Angela Merkel and Taleb Rifai highlight importance of tourism at BTW in Berlin

  • Published by Ozgur Tore

merkel btw2016The 20th Summit of the Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry (BTW) took place on 26 September in Berlin, Germany. More than 500 participants enjoyed speeches by Chancellor Angela Merkel, SPD General Secretary Dr. Katarina Barley and the UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai.

Addressing the summit on the topic of ‘Safe, Secure and Seamless Travel’, Rifai said: “real crises are often magnified or distorted by crises of perception. We need to enhance our support to countries affected by crises as they recover and help them increase their resilience. Supporting these countries will benefit the whole tourism sector and the whole of society.”

Attending the Summit was Chancellor Angela Merkel, who stressed the opportunities that sustainable tourism provides for developing and emerging countries. “It is important for the tourism sector to emphasize local culture and local products and services, to generate truly genuine development opportunities,” said the Chancellor. Ms. Merkel highlighted the role of tourism in development assistance. “Many refugees come from African countries. We need to give people economic development perspectives in their home countries. Tourism could contribute significantly to this,” she said.

Speaking about the need to build a framework of safe, secure and seamless travel, Mr Rifai said: “Safety and security is one of the global challenges our world is experiencing. No country is immune to security risks. Not one. It is a global responsibility that we must face together, across sectors and borders.” He called for increased cooperation, saying: “Let us respond not with isolation but with unity. We must be vigilant to ensure that cooperation prevails over isolation and that safe and seamless travel can go hand in hand”.

“A condition of tourism’s success is positive cooperation – between visitor and host, between source market and destination, and also between the tourism and security sectors. For this reason I call for the mainstreaming of tourism into national, regional and global safety and security agendas. Effective coordination, information sharing and communication mechanisms between tourism and security will lead to safer and more seamless travel, as well as better crisis management,” he added.

The UNWTO Secretary-General also welcomed the launch of the Transcultural Dialogue in Tourism series, an initiative of BTW and the Centre for Innovation and Sustainability in Tourism (CITS). “By its very nature, a partnership between Germany and one host country, this will be a truly remarkable effort to harness that incredible power of tourism to build bridges of trust and tolerance. This supports the conviction that all people, no matter how diverse their background, can benefit economies and societies. Tourism is a leading sector in providing solutions and opportunities for inclusion, and intercultural dialogue is a way of finding these solutions,” said Mr Rifai.

“The facilitation of intercultural dialogue has always been part of the essence of our sector. In these times, this dialogue is more important than ever,” said Michel Frenzel, President of BTW.

Despite current challenges, Mr Rifai stressed that tourism is proving to be one of the most resilient economic sectors worldwide, creating jobs for millions and contributing to more inclusive growth. He recalled that in 2015, international tourist arrivals reached 1.186 million, 52 million more than in 2014, and that data for the first half of 2016 confirmed this positive trend with a 4% increase in international tourist arrivals.

Mr. Rifai also highlighted the good results of Germany’s tourism sector. Germany welcomed 35 million international tourists last year, 2 million more than in 2014, earning the country 33 billion euros in exports.

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