Lithuania seen as active partner of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation


2013 03 27


During the visit to Izmir, Turkey, Minister of Economy Birutė Vėsaitė met with Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai and together they opened the international seminar ‘Tourism at World Heritage Sites: Challenges and Opportunities’. 

During the bilateral meeting, Mr Rifai, Head of the UNWTO, expressed his support for Lithuania, which has decided to proceed as a candidate for the UNWTO Executive Council for the first time.

‘Lithuania was and still is one of the most actively working and important partners of the UNWTO in the region of Central, Eastern and Northern Europe. We encourage study trips of Lithuanian tourism specialists and student internships in the UNWTO, and we will appoint experts to prepare the National Long-Term Tourism Strategy Until 2020 for Lithuania,’ Mr Rifai emphasised and promised all necessary support in organising the European Tourism Forum ‘Tourism: Aimed to Promote Economic Growth, Social Changes and Welfare’ on 17-18 October this year, during the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council. It was agreed that the tourism business associations of the Baltic Sea Region will sign the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.

Minister of Economy Birutė Vėsaitė stressed the importance of the cooperation between Lithuania and the UNWTO, the particularly successful programmes for the promotion of the capacities of tourism specialists and student internships in the Madrid-based headquarters of the UNWTO and the Global Amber Route project, which has been jointly implemented since 2012. During the meeting, Mr Rifai voiced the hopes that the successfully launched Amber Route project will become a competitor to the Silk Route project, which has connected 28 countries.

Ms Birutė Vėsaitė invited all European countries that have links with amber to join the project, together develop the Amber Route and participate in the European Tourism Forum, which will be held in Vilnius in October.

Mr Rifai, Head of the UNWTO, emphasised the importance of tourism to the global economy. Tourism has never been so important – in 2012, international tourist arrivals exceeded the 1 billion mark. Mr Rifai called the XXI century ‘the century of travelling and tourism’. He said, tourism is not a privilege; tourism and travelling is the right of each and every person, like the right to work or study. It would be wrong to believe that more tourists pose a threat to UNESCO and cultural heritage because more visitors mean more benefits and more preservation.

The UNWTO is an intergovernmental international organisation, founded in 1970, following the reorganisation of the International Union of Official Tourism Organisations. The mission of the UNWTO is to promote and develop tourism as an important tool to support peace and understanding, economic development and international trade. The most significant directions of the UNWTO activities include promotion of sustainable tourism development, tourism surveys, collection of statistical data, and organisation of seminars, conferences, etc. The UNWTO currently has 154 member states. Lithuania acceded this Organisation in 2003.