Travel Barriers Are 'Choking' The Tourism Industry, Says UNWTO General Secretary.
Tuesday, 25th March 2014
Source : Louise Osborne ~ Exclusive from ITB 2014
Despite growth in the tourism sector in 2013, with the number of international tourist arrivals increasing 5% to 1,087 million, the general secretary of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said there are still barriers 'choking' the industry.

Speaking at a press conference in the run up to ITB Berlin Tuesday, Taleb Rifai (Photo: middle) said traveling to another country was often complicated by the need for visas.

4Hoteliers Image Library"Sixty-six percent of the population need prior approval to travel from one destination to another," he told journalists. "Five years ago it was around 75 percent so it is better now but a lot still needs to be done. Moving from one destination to another is still challenging."

He added that it was irresponsible for countries to promote tourism, while still preventing some from traveling there.

"We can't continue to spend on promotion of destinations and tell people to 'come to our country' and at the same time, we're telling people from another governmental angle, 'don't come to our country'," he said.

Some of the biggest challenges to the industry are the lack of connectivity in terms of aviation policy between some countries and also taxes levied against travelers visiting particular regions around the world, said Rifai.

"Governments are taxing travel in ways that are damaging not just to the travel and tourism industry but the entire economic chain that follows that and the benefits that come out of that," he said. "This is happening particularly in countries that are undergoing economic difficulties and really need to develop intelligent taxes that make sense."

Speaking about a campaign due to be launched by the UNWTO during the ITB Berlin on the issue of illegal trafficking of "wealth and heritage that should belong where it belongs," the secretary general said another challenge for the tourism industry is that of sustainable travel.

"With one billion travelers crossing borders every year, we could create one billion opportunities or one billion disasters," he said. "We are very concerned with sustainability, preservation and the ethics we are not just talking about environment but social and economic sustainability. This is a challenge we need to address closely."

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Louise Osborne is a correspondent and editor based in Berlin, Germany. She began her career working at regional newspapers in the UK and now works with journalists across the globe as part of international journalism organization, Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA). Living abroad for the second time, she continues to be fascinated by places both near and far, and boards a plane eagerly, as often as she can.

Besides the ITB Berlin 2014 live coverage, Louise also writes a weekly exclusive column for

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