Address by Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General
World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
Azerbaijan International Travel and Tourism Fair
12-14 April 2012, Baku, Azerbaijan
I very much regret that I cannot be with you in person today in Baku.
Yet, I wish to take the opportunity to send my warmest congratulations to the Azerbaijan International Travel and Tourism Fair on the occasion of its 11thedition.
Over the past decade, AITF has gone from strength to strength, becoming the leading networking forum for the tourism sector in the Caspian area and reflecting the dynamic growth of the tourism industry in the region.
In 2012, with the participation of more top industry players than ever before, I am confident AITF will maintain this reputation.
It is therefore with great pleasure that UNWTO joins AITF as a partner in this year’s edition.
2012 is a historic year for international tourism, with one billion international tourists expected to travel the globe.
As we approach this extraordinary milestone, the competitiveness and sustainability of our sector should be on your minds.
International tourism is an extremely competitive sector. As tourism professionals, you will all be keeping your eyes on trends in the market, innovating, diversifying your offer and focusing on quality in order to maintain your competitive edge.
Yet without concerns for sustainability, these efforts are meaningless.
It is only by placing sustainability at the core of our business that we can continue to prosper. As travellers become more environmentally-conscience and the quest for sustainability becomes the rule, not the exception, it is increasingly clear that enterprises will simply not succeed unless they move forward in a sustainable manner.
This is why it is with great satisfaction that we witness the efforts undertaken by the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan to make the tourism sector one of the pillars of the country´s economic growth and a priority for investment in infrastructure.
As traditional economic sectors face great challenges, new sectors such as tourism, culture and sports are driving growth. And Azerbaijan has clearly understood this. Last November during my unforgettable visit to your country I had a chance to personally see how well prepared Azerbaijan is for this new reality.
Hosting the Eurovision contest, declaring 2011 as the Year of Tourism, joining the Global Leaders for Tourism Campaign and hosting the International Silk Road Conference on Food, Culture and Tourism next September are just a few examples of the priority given to the tourism sector in Azerbaijan and the recognition of its power to foster the country’s development.
We are also very pleased with the long standing and fruitful cooperation between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and UNWTO,I wish to particularly thank the Ministry for hosting the UNWTO´s capacity building programme for CIS countries in the field of tourism statistics, and for working together in the development of the Silk Road tourism and exploring the potential of the Caspian Sea cruise tourism. It is with satisfaction that we observe the growing participation of the Azerbaijan private sector stake holders in the UNWTO activities, in particular, Azerbaijan Tourism Association, Azerbaijan Tourism Institute and Baku Tourism Information Centre. The recent election of Azerbaijan Tourism Association a Vice-President of the UNWTO Affiliate Members board, the governing body of the UNWTO´s private sector members is yet recognition of Azerbaijan as an important emerging tourism destination.
Let me conclude, by reiterating that UNWTO is very proud to count upon Azerbaijan as a partner for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
Only by working together can we ensure that the tourism sector develops as competitively and sustainably as possible.
I encourage you all to make the most of the Azerbaijan International Travel and Tourism Fair and I wish you very successful days and look forward to UNWTO’s continued collaboration with AITF.