UNWTO member states comprising of 120 countries gathered in Saint Petersburg, Russia for the 23rd Session of the World Tourism Organisation General Assembly which is considered as the most important high level event of the global tourism sector. Seychelles was represented at the meeting by the Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Mr. Didier Dogley and the Principal Secretary for Tourism, Mrs. Anne Lafortune. Present also at the meeting were representatives from the Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Foundation.
The role of tourism in education, employment and tackling climate change was the focus of this General Assembly. This theme underscores tourism impact as a sector in the world economy and global trade and is rightly placed at the heart of the Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The Secretary General of UNWTO, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili reported on the current trends of International tourism as well as UNWTO’s programme of work and the financial situation for 2018-2019 and 2020-2021.
During his intervention, Minister Dogley took note of the progress made in implementing the 2018-2019 programme of work and one area of interest to Seychelles is the work being done to implement strategic activities for Africa. Minister Dogley commended the initiatives undertaken to green the tourism industry and improve the impact of tourism on the environment in particular in minimizing its contributions to climate change. “As a Small Island Developing State, which is vulnerable to natural disasters, we are always wary of the negative impacts of climate change on our planet and our country” mentioned Minister Dogley. He took the opportunity to express Seychelles condolences and sympathy to the Government and people of the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian hit the country and caused devastating damage. He continued by saying that, “we can feel the pain and fully understand the difficulties the people of the Bahamas are going through and the long term impact this will have on their tourism industry”.
Minister Dogley further stated that the report on education and skills development is highly relevant to Seychelles. If properly implemented together with the programme on innovation and the use of digital platforms, it can unlock great potentials for many countries and communities. It is also key in promoting inclusiveness, which is imperative in ensuring that the benefits of tourism reach the population as a whole.
The Minister also participated in a Ministerial debate on “Education and Employment in Tourism” where he focused on the Seychelles experience highlighting the advantages of both apprenticeship training and degree courses in the hospitality and tourism industry. He highlighted the importance of having a dual system for skill and knowledge development because both are effective tools towards the same goal, which is to ensure the country has the necessary qualified workforce in the tourism sector.
Held in the margins of the General Assembly was the 111th Session of the UNWTO Executive Council and the 62nd Commission for Africa (CAF) meeting where members of CAF endorsed Seychelles as the venue to host for the 2020 Commission for Africa meeting.
The UNWTO General Assembly proved to be successful for Seychelles in view that three main objectives were achieved, namely to extend the membership of Seychelles on the UNWTO executive council for two more years, to be represented on the committee on Statistics and the Tourism Satellite Account and to host the Commission for Africa Meeting. The endorsement of Seychelles on these global bodies underscores the reputation Seychelles has in the tourism sector.
The next UNWTO General Assembly will take place in Morocco in 2021.