Welcome Message from the Secretary-General of UNWTO, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili

On behalf of the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations (UNWTO), I look forward to welcoming you all to Fiji for the 30th joint meeting of the UNWTO Commissions for East Asia and the Pacific and for South Asia. This year, in collaboration with Chimelong, we are also holding a regional seminar to highlight the strong potential for tourism to lead in the transition to a greener, more inclusive and more responsible sector that works for, not against, the environment.

I express my appreciation to Prime Minister Bainimarama, Minister Koya and the Government of Fiji, particularly the Fijian Ministry for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Lands and Mineral Resources, for inviting us to Fiji and supporting the continued work of UNWTO in Asia and the Pacific.

Tourism in Fiji has steadily increased for years, with arrivals growing by almost 50% between 2005 and 2017. At the same time, it has provided jobs, empowered communities and improved livelihoods. This is true all across Asia and the Pacific, which in 2017 cemented its status as one of the fastest-growing tourism regions in the world with a 6% growth in arrivals.

Fiji is also the right place for us to be having a discussion on the implications of tourism on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific. The small island developing state is well aware of the intrinsic threat to the natural environment posed by climate change and biodiversity loss throughout the region.

Like almost any other key economic activity, tourism has a dual role in this context, given its socio-economic relevance and simultaneous impact on natural resources. Against this backdrop, the regional tourism community needs to address the climate challenge by seizing tourism’s potential to contribute to protection of biodiversity, environment and heritage. It is critical to raise awareness among local populations on the importance of conservation, and how to address environmental issues while undertaking tourism activities.

I am pleased to see governments across the Asia-Pacific region prioritizing tourism in their overarching sustainable development agendas and initiatives for multi-stakeholder cooperation and local community participation.

I look forward to in-depth discussion on this crucial topic in Fiji, and to continued cooperation with you all to ensure tourism’s continued growth translates into a growing meaningful contribution to long-term sustainability for the sector, including to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

 

Zurab Pololikashvili

Secretary-General, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)