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31st August, 2013.
UNWTO General Assembly Plenary Session

At UNWTO General Assembly, Duke Demands Respect For Nigerian Travellers

The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, has called on countries around the world to accord greater respect to Nigerians who travel around the world for several legitimate reasons describing them as high net worth tourists.

Speaking at the Ministerial Roundtable of the 20th General Assembly of United Nations World Tourism Organization( UNWTO) being jointly hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Minister said, "Nigerians through these activities make huge contributions to the various aspects of tourism globally stressing that the situation as a strong indication that Nigerians deserve greater respect."

Speaking against the backdrop of the theme of the General Assembly, which is Visa Facilitation, Connectivity and Relations Between Tourism and Air Transport Policies, the Minister, who led the Nigerian delegation to the General Assembly decried the situation where some countries come up with visa policies that impinge on connectivity by making it difficult for some nationals to travel for tourism, business and education.

Asked why he was emphatic in demand for respect for Nigerian travelers the Minister said , "I was emphatic because many countries at the Roundtable spoke about using the benchmark for certain countries as yardstick for endorsing tourism in other parts of the world.

For instance, you have countries that are not subscribers to the UNWTO Convention but they are the preferred countries for many tourists and, it is now said that when you have visas to those countries, you will have non-encumbrance access to those countries .

My question is what about countries which are members of the UNWTO and are big source markets for Africa, Europe, Asia, North America and South America, and tourists from these are tourists spend big for the economies of the preferred countries. Why are they also not given visa facilitation and treated with great respect", the Minister asked.

The Minister told the Assembly, "often times because of our adventurous spirit and because of our desire to enhance knowledge by traveling to different parts of the world, Nigerians are regular travellers around the world.

This keeps embassies of foreign countries in Nigeria busy and thousands of flight seats are also filled by Nigerians travelling for different purposes including business, education, holiday, shopping and for other legitimate reasons.

It is therefore important to treat Nigerians with greater respect because they contribute significantly to tourist arrivals in very many countries".

The Minister said the new tourist visa regime put in place by the Federal Government will be diligently pursued to remove all encumbrances hitherto associated with obtaining the visa to visit Nigeria.

Earlier at the opening ceremony attended by the President of Zambia, Michael Sata and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, the Secretary-General of UNWTO, Dr. Taleb Rifai said though the last two years were marked by slower than expected global economic recovery, a lingering recession in the Eurozone and remarkable geopolitical changes in many parts of the world, international tourism continued to grow, reaching an all-time records.

According to the Secretary-General, "international tourists arrivals grew by 4 per cent in 2012 and by 5 per cent in the first half of 2013, thus exceeding the UNWTO's initial forecast for the current year of a 3 - 4 per cent growth.

On the political level, 2012 reflected our collective efforts to improve tourism's recognition on the global agenda. World leaders at the G20 Summit in Mexico and Rio+20 UN Decade of Sustainable Development Conference, for the first time, singled out tourism as a driver of economic growth, development and job creation".

Relating these developments to Africa, the Secretary General said international tourist arrivals in Africa grew from 15 million in 1990 to 52 million in 2012 while exports from international tourism reached US$34 billion in 2012 from a mere 6 billion in 1990 and by 2030 international tourist arrivals to Africa will reach 134 million, almost three times the current number.

Continuing, Dr. Rifai said, "This 20th General Assembly of our organization is therefore holding at a moment of continued growth in the tourism sector and of increasing political recognition of the role of tourism in contributing to a more sustainable growth.

UNWTO forecasts 1.8 billion international tourists by 2030. This forecast not only proves tourism's resilience if we consider the challenges many countries are facing.

It also calls upon increased awareness of the global responsibility we share as a critical global activity and of the urge to co-operate further in ensuring the continued sustainable growth of the sector".

Three main issues were top of the agenda of the 20th General Assembly. These are Visa Facilitation and Entry Formalities and Air Connectivity especially with regards to Africa and other places (more than 50% of tourism movements take place by air) and Youth Tourism.

Dr. Rifai said Youth Tourism is becoming increasingly crucial because 300 million out of people who travel around the world are classified as young traveler stressing the importance of addressing issues that affect them at UNWTO sessions.

To this end, the General Assembly approved the proposed recommendations on Youth Travel which placed special emphasis on the positive impact of young travelers on host communities, destinations and countries; the need to stimulate youth travel; the importance of identifying key issues to advance the segment and the necessity of strengthening the link between education and tourism to benefit the youth.

Source: ngrguardiannews.com

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