United Nations World Tourism Organisation, UNWTO and the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO has announced a new joint strategic statement on Tourism and Air Transport for Development.
The Medellín Statement was agreed at the first joint UNWTO/ICAO High-Level Forum on Tourism and Air Transport for Development, held on the sidelines of the 21st UNWTO General Assembly in Medellin, Colombia.
It highlighted the potential of air transport and tourism to improving socio-economic prosperity and promotes sustainable development in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs expected to be agreed at the United Nations SDG Summit next week in New York.
“With increased connectivity warranting long-term growth for aviation and tourism, our interlinked sectors represent lasting opportunities for socio-economic development. Yet if we are to harness these benefits, tourism and air transport must address persisting divergent policies and work towards a stronger, integrated position on inter-sectorial issues such as travel facilitation, market access, taxation or infrastructure development. As the global inter-governmental bodies responsible for tourism and aviation, UNWTO and ICAO are obliged to lead by example and pave the way for closer and more effective cooperation at all levels“said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, opening the Forum.
In her opening remarks, the ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu stated that, “there are tremendous benefits for States which can be derived from optimised air transport connectivity and local and regional tourism development.”
She said, “This is true not only in terms of increased business activity and economic growth, but also improved general prosperity and social welfare. With aviation set to double in flight and passenger volumes in just the next 15 years, it is essential that States prepare today to reap the full benefits of this growth in the years ahead.”
The high-level policy-makers and regulators at the Joint Forum discussed challenges relating to policy convergence, the need for enhanced connectivity, market access, air transport competitiveness, and travel facilitation.
According to ICAO Council President, Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu during the opening of the UNWTO General Assembly, “ICAO and the UNWTO have been actively engaged for some time in maximising the cooperative opportunities for aviation and tourism. These efforts have been aided by our private sector engagement through the Global Travel Association Coalition, GTAC, and they are critical to realising both the long-term economic growth and prosperity benefits for States and the related targets in the UN SDGs.”
Meanwhile, the need to have a holistic approach to financing of tourism for development was one of the key conclusions of the event held on the topic on the sidelines of the 21st UNWTO General Assembly in Medellín, Colombia.
The UNWTO noted that the horizontal nature of the sector and its many linkages to other activities along the value chain requires that the international community develop an approach to tourism financing that promotes cross-sector cooperation and solutions.
Opening the event, UNWTO Secretary General, Taleb Rifai, recalled that despite tourism’s role in promoting development, the sector is still underrepresented in aid flows as only 0.09 percent of total Official Development Assistance, ODA and 0.78 percent of total Aid for Trade, AfT disbursements were directed to tourism in 2013.
Arancha González, executive director of the International Trade Centre, ITC, stressed that tourism is trade and that countries need to advance towards tourism exports strategies that increase the retention of local value added and engage the private sector and civil society.
Mr. Derek Hanekom, Minister of Tourism, South Africa and Chair of the UNWTO ODA Working Group, said that there is a development component which is inherit to tourism as a labour intensive sector.
Talking about financing of tourism in Least Developed Countries, LDCs, Ambassador Yvette Stevens, Chair of the Enhanced Integrated Framework, EIF Board, highlighted the support provided to LDCs by the EIF in the preparation of integrated trade strategies, while Ambassador Dho Young-shim, Chair of the ST-EP Foundation, stressed the role of tourism in poverty alleviation.
Closing the event, the Vice-Minister of Tourism of Colombia, Sandra Howard, called upon UNWTO to gather Minister of Tourism and Ministers of Finance for a closer collaboration on tourism financing.

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