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World Tourism Organization urging World Trade Organization to speed up the process of fair trade liberalization

Travel News Asia 3 September 2003

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) will again urge decision makers in the global trading system to give fair liberalization in trade in tourism services a chance and prioritize poverty alleviation. The WTO will attend the fifth session of the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) from 10 to 14 September in Cancn, Mexico.

Tourism trade can be one of the most decisive factors in achieving the goals of development and sustainability in the global trading system as agreed in the Doha Declaration - particularly in the world's poorest countries.

"It seems that we are already behind schedule and there is a real danger that we will miss our targets," says World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Mr. Francesco Frangialli.

Poverty alleviation, job creation and social harmony are the World Tourism Organization priorities for the year 2003 and the main theme of this year's upcoming World Tourism Day on 27 September 2003.

"Now is the moment to stress what we call 'tourism liberalization with a human face' - prioritizing poverty alleviation along with fair trade and triple bottom line sustainable development," says Mr. Frangialli.

"Members of the World Trade Organization should make substantial progress in dealing with this complex cross-sectoral phenomenon of tourism," urged Mr. Frangialli at his meeting with WTO Director General Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi in Geneva on 15 August.

The World Tourism Organization is committed to assisting in that process, and as a new United Nations specialized agency it will be well positioned for the challenge.

Clearly it is important that the processes of the Development Round are structured to capitalize on the strengths of tourism and minimize the weaknesses. According to Mr. Frangialli, of particular importance are the themes encompassed in the concept of "Tourism Liberalization with a Human Face" that the World Tourism Organization developed and presented at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last year.

These themes include eliminating all barriers to tourism growth affecting the total supply chain as identified in the United Nations statistical classifications and ensuring that liberalization creates fair conditions of competition on a level playing field for the growth of all countries' tourism services and effective safety nets for developing markets.

Also important to this concept is the inclusion in the assessment of trade in services the identification and mitigation of so called "leakages" of revenue to origin market travel companies, since the leakage phenomenon results in inequitable returns for destination service suppliers and minimizes the positive effects of tourism on economic and social development.

There is also the need to remove all unjustified obstacles to cross-border movements of tourism consumers, create equal tourism promotion opportunities for all, and address the issue of Government "travel advisories" on tourism destinations.

Mr. Frangialli also argues that there is the need to recognize tourism's vital reliance on liberalization commitments favouring free flowing transport systems, full and fair access to distribution networks and information channels, and ensuring provision of adequate infrastructure and systematic elimination of barriers to efficient operations.

In this context, the Secretary-General stresses the importance of the reliance of developing states' tourism on air services: the impact of different regulatory treatment for air service liberalization and the importance of providing incentives for investment or commercial presence in air service, distribution and infrastructure in developing markets.

Concluding, he said that the two WTOs would work even more closely in the future to ensure that tourism takes its rightful place as a key component of the global services revolution and that through "Liberalization with a Human Face" the tourism sector will contribute decisively to an equitable and durable trading regime that plays its full part in the fight against poverty.

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