Tourism creates a better world, but with the rise of tourism come more responsibilities, Mr Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, told a panel on Security and Sustainability in Tourism at the Business Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) on Tuesday.
“1.2 billion people travelling across the borders of their country can present 1.2 billion opportunities or 1.2 billion catastrophes,” Rifai warned, adding that the tourism industry must constantly seek to find ways to make the world a better place.
Peace should not be taken for granted and in today’s globalised world no country can sustain peace on its own. “Peace in Slovenia depends on peace in the region and in the world. A problem anywhere is a problem everywhere,” he said in his address to the panel.
Mr Rifai believes a key challenge for the future will be to enable obstacle-free travel despite security measures. Security measures are necessary, but they must be humane, he said, warning against the closing of European borders. He also called for the continuation of visa liberalisation process.
Mr Rifai believes countries should not react with panic to security threats, but must work together instead. People should not be advised against travelling to places where locals need their help and support the most, he stressed.
Ms Helen Marano, Senior Vice President of Government and Industry Affairs at the World Travel & Tourism Council, UK, agreed that tourism can contribute to better understanding of different cultures and thus to peace. She too warned against the closing of borders and building of walls.
Addressing the panel, Mr Zdravko Počivalšek, Minister of Economic Development and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia, said that tourism was faced with increasingly many challenges, foremost connected to terrorism and migration.
He called for sustainable development. “There can be no security without sustainability and no sustainability without security,” he said.
Slovenia is dedicated to green and sustainable tourism, said Ms Maja Pak, Director-General of the Slovenian Tourist Board. “Natural resources improve the quality of life and the latter is one of the most important elements of a safe country,” she stressed.
According to Dr Terry Stevens, MD at Stevens & Associates and Professor at School of Management, Swansea University, UK, world leaders have a great responsibility. Panic and overreactions should be avoided, decisions must be proportionate and reasonable, he warned.
Ms Tatjana Juriševič, CEO of travel agent Kompas d.d., Slovenia said that panic among tourists was often created by the media. “It is important to stay rational,” she stressed.
Ms Eva Štravs Podlogar, General Director of the Directorate for Tourism and Internationalization at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia, pointed to cooperation in the branch, noting that all Slovenian stakeholders were included in the drawing up of a new national tourism strategy.
Ms Irena Gueorguieva, Deputy Minister of Tourism of the Republic of Bulgaria, stressed that tourism connected people and warned that all stakeholders carried responsibility for the overall stituation.
Ambassador Dr Gusztav Bienerth, Government Commissioner for Tourism at the Prime Minister’s Office, Hungary, too pointed to the importance of cooperation, calling on Slovenia to back Budapest’s candidacy for the Summer Olympics in 2024.
Dr Mario Hardy, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, Thailand, called on European countries to present themselves to Asian tourists as safe countries that are far away from France.