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World Tourism Organization 'More than Satisfied' with outcome of 15th General Assembly

Travel News Asia 31 October 2003

With unanimous approval of the transformation of the Organization into a UN specialized agency as the highlight of the recently concluded 15th General Assembly (GA) of the World Tourism Organization (WTO), Secretary-General Mr. Francesco Frangialli declared that "we can be more than satisfied with the outcomes of the event, even if one important problem is yet to be solved".

There is only one more step to go before the process of transformation will end, namely the approval of the new international agreement between the two Organizations by the UN General Assembly, expected on the 7th of November. The WTO GA delegates gave their green light to WTO Executive Council's decision with acclamation, just before two dragons, Chinese symbols of joy and power, whirled their way through the conference, bearing flags of the WTO and the UN, in celebration of the historic decision.

The General Assembly has adopted by consensus "a very rich programme" for the next two-year period, which makes WTO "one of the most active UN agencies", explained Mr. Frangialli. "Despite the awaited new status in the United Nations, WTO has adopted a strong programme and a healthy budget, which will not increase in real terms. It will only reflect the inflation in the host country Spain,"

"We are especially satisfied with the unanimous support the delegates expressed to the Sustainable Tourism - Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) initiative," Mr. Frangialli said. Furthermore, the World Committee on Tourism Ethics is now fully constituted. A life-long diplomat and former senior UN official Mr. Diego Cordovz of Ecuador was presented by the Secretary-General as candidate for the position of Chairman of the Committee. 

The Tourism Recovery Committee (TRC) held its fifth meeting and agreed that the industry is picking up, especially in Asia. "The TRC with its broad international action has influenced a lot the recuperation, and we hope that it will soon merge with the WTO Marketing Committee, " affirmed Mr. Frangialli. He added that there is a major issue that remains open, namely the question of the travel advisories issued by some governments. Mr. Frangialli confirmed that this problem would be firmly addressed in the near future.

The conclusions of the TRC have in general confirmed the findings of the seminar organized by the Affiliate Members on "Consolidation of the sector and the impact on destinations and companies", held on Tuesday, 21 October.

The Affiliate Members have also elected their new Chairman, Mr. Andr Vallerand from Tourisme Montral (Canada). He replaced Mr. Martin Brackenbury - Chairman of the International Federation of Tour Operators, who served as Chairman of WTOBC since 1995. According to Mr. Frangialli, consensus was reached on the majority of issues. There was only one question on which different opinions were expressed, namely the Organization's partnership with the tourism stakeholders and especially local authorities. Following a proposal of a group of countries, a working group, to be chaired by France, has been founded within the Executive Council, to evaluate and propose modifications, if needed, to Articles 6 and 7 of the WTO Statutes, to redefine in particular accession of Associate Members to WTO. The latter are incorporated in the activities of the Organization, but, as stressed in a resolution proposed by a group of countries, led by Spain, without the rights reserved for the sovereign states in the intergovernmental WTO.

"I fully support the working group and expect that solutions, acceptable for everybody, will soon be reached," Mr. Frangialli said.

The number of Member States has increased at the General Assembly from 140 to 143. Bhutan, Lithuania and Latvia (for 2005) were admitted as new members. The Russian Federation was re-elected Chair of the Executive Council, while Jordan and Nigeria were elected to vice-chairmanships for 2004. The next session of the Executive Council will take place in India in June 2004.

Almost 900 delegates from 130 countries and 77 organizations and companies working directly in travel, tourism and related sectors attended the event, which took place from 17 to 24 October in the Conference Centre of the China World Hotel in Beijing, China.

The next WTO General Assembly will take place in Dakar, Senegal, in October or November 2005.

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