Tourism ministers, public and private sector leaders and key decision makers are heading to St Petersburg to meet for the 23rd Session of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
This week, Russia will host the most important high-level event for global tourism at a crucial time for the sector.
According to the latest Tourism Barometer from the United Nations specialised agency for tourism – released on the eve of its General Assembly – international tourist arrivals for the first six months of 2019 totalled 671 million, a 4 per cent increase on the same period of 2018.
At the same time, guided by UNWTO, tourism has emerged as a key pillar of the Sustainable Development Agenda, identified as a powerful driver of economic growth, job creation and the preservation and promotion of cultural and natural heritage.
Reflecting the importance of the General Assembly, more than 1,100 participants are expected in St Petersburg, including 65 ministers and vice ministers of tourism and 31 secretaries of state.
Top of the agenda for the 23rd Session of the General Assembly will be approval of the secretary-general’s vision for a larger, but more sustainable organisation with a greater focus on tourism’s role in education and job creation, as well as on the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in making global tourism more inclusive and sustainable.
Ahead of the General Assembly, UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism is undoubtedly a leading economic sector of our time.
“Tourism not only supports millions of jobs worldwide, it also helps urban and rural economies and promotes peace and understanding between peoples.
“This General Assembly reflects the importance of our sector and I look forward to welcoming leaders from around the world and working with them to identify ways tourism can continue to be a global force for good.”
Zarina Doguzova, head of the Federal Agency for Tourism, Russia, added: “The UNWTO General Assembly is a great and eagerly-awaited event.
“For Russia, it represents a unique opportunity to highlight our country’s tourism potential and share our plans to develop tourism in accordance with best international practices.”
The 23rd Session of the UNWTO General Assembly will be held at several of St Petersburg’s most prestigious venues, including the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Catherine Palace and the Mariinsky Theatre, throughout Wednesday (September 12) and Thursday (September 13).
Prior to the event, UNWTO’s Affiliate Members met in the Russian city. The special Plenary Session for Affiliate Members highlighted the important role the private sector, in addition to civil society and academia, can play in helping UNWTO fulfil its mission to guide the tourism sector’s growth in a responsible and sustainable manner.