The Slovenia Times

Dr Taleb D. Rifai, Secretary-General of the UNWTO: "The new tourism strategy will definitely make Slovenia a five star destination"


Additionally he pointed out that the country Slovenia improve its tourism records because of hard work, not because some other locations are temporarily affected by crises of different nature. Moreover, Dr Taleb emphasizes, that tourism can have a transformative power to foster peace and reconciliation.

Recently you have said, "Travel is a language of peace". Additionally you highlight the role of tourism as a catalyst for development and a source of wealth. Unfortunately the global travel and tourism safety are nowadays connected. How does UNWTO contribute to open up the places to tourism after they are attacked?

Traveling opens our mind and increases our interest about other cultures, thus human values such as solidarity and understanding, something highly needed in current societies. Tourism has shown to be a great tool for intercultural dialogue but also an excellent catalyst to induce the recovery.

For UNWTO the best manner to support those nations is to continue visiting them, facilitating their recovery. Last year we held the UNWTO General Assembly in Medellin, Colombia, in order to showcase how tourism can have a transformative power and this year we held a Conference in Sri Lanka on the potential of tourism to foster peace and reconciliation. These are only two examples of different manners to support countries that have prioritize tourism as a strategy to further develop but also successful cases of nations that have become wonderful and unique destinations.

Do you think the perception of insecurity that has followed by the attacks (especially Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey) contributed to the tourism records in Slovenia and Croatia this summer?

Unfortunately, the perception of safety and security is related in many cases with lack of information and prejudices. Because of that UNWTO always recommend countries to disseminate accurate and objective information when crises of different type occur.

There are many misconceptions about the tourism sector and one of them is to justify growth in a certain destination by the decline in others. This is neither fair nor precise. Our experience shows that the gains registered in some destinations do not numerically correspond to the losses in others. Even if this would be the case, the gain would be only temporary because tourism is a highly resilient sector that can recover from crises in a surprisingly fast manner. If Slovenia and Croatia are improving their tourism records is because they have been working hard in the last years and because they have become great destinations, not because some other locations are temporarily affected by crises of different nature.

How do you see Slovenia tourism, what are its opportunities and the challenges on the other hand?

With a rich cultural and natural heritage, Slovenia offers a variety of tourism products that converts the country in a unique and authentic destination. It is important to highlight the efforts to position Slovenia as a green and sustainable tourism destination. The national brand "I feel Slovenia" communicates that Slovenia is a green destination and tourists can live a unique travel experience in the country.

Slovenia needs to continue its active promotional campaign to increase inbound tourism volume as well as to diversity its tourism offer and increase conncetivity. It is of utmost important that the Government of the country considers tourism as a driver of socio-economic development and job creation.
The new tourism strategy that will be launched in the coming months will definitely make Slovenia a five star destination by 2021 focusing on green, active and healthy experience.

Is it important that Slovenia connect at the regional level in the field of its touristic offer and where do you think is this essential?

Regional tourism can contribute to the growth of inbound tourism volume in Slovenia, as together with its neighboring countries, it can offer regional tourism products, like cultural and gastronomic routes and sport activities among others to attract visitors from long-haul destination.

For the fourth consecutive year, international tourism grew faster than world merchandise trade, raising tourism's share in world's exports to 7% in 2015. The total export value from international tourism amounted to US$ 1.4 trillion. Is continuous growth positive, or does it has a limit?

2015 has been the 6th consecutive year of growth of the tourism sector after the financial crisis and probably 2016 will be the 7th. When a sector performs in an appropriate manner, the natural trend is to grow. In the case of tourism, it is true that there are innovative strategies such as diversification of the offer, promotion of unknown sub-destinations that help manage the increasing number of tourist arrivals.

This year 60th UNWTO Commission for the Americas was held in Cuba, Havana. What are the UNWTO activities in Cuba?

Cuba has been for long a leading tourism destination in the region and this historic moment we live will contribute to further advance tourism in Cuba.

Cuba is a UNWTO Member State since 1975 and UNWTO has been since working with the country in areas such a planning, human resources or marketing.

How does digital revolution affect tourism industry for both, tourists as well as for tourism services providers?

ICTs and new technologies have influenced, are inspiring and will lead the development of the tourism sector in the future. The impact is of tremendous nature and involves all stakeholders involved, from public authorities to the varied segments of private identity, such as the hospitality services, transportation and tour operators. Access to information, service provision and facilitation of seamless travel are only some of the benefits that ICTs offer to the tourism sector. The possibilities are as wide as the different solutions opened by this amazing environment.


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