UNWTO calls for rethinking tourism as a force for development and transformation

The World Tourism Organization brought together global brand experts, journalists and content creators to rethink the narratives around tourism communications

Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO (MINTUR)

With global tourism on track to reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, UNWTO convened its Executive Council to advance plans to put education, investment and sustainability at the center of the sector's future.

The latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer showed that international arrivals reached 80% of pre-pandemic levels. Global results for the first quarter of 2023 set the pace for this upward trend to continue.

Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said: "In 2022, UNWTO called on the world to 'rethink tourism'. Now is the time to put those plans into action. Building a more sustainable, resilient and inclusive tourism sector will require more and better targeted investment. , skilled workers and more innovation. UNWTO is working closely with our Member States to achieve significant progress in all these areas and we leave Punta Cana with a clear focus around shared goals and a shared vision for our sector."

For this reason, against the backdrop of the 118th session of its Executive Council in Punta Cana, UNWTO organized a special thematic session. In addition to assessing the evolution of tourism communications, the session featured experts explored current and future opportunities to more effectively portray tourism as a key driver of development, both in traditional media and content platforms.

"New Narratives in Tourism"

With tourism high on the political agenda like never before, UNWTO is leading the charge in tourism communications, with increased focus on the sector's unique power as a driver of development and opportunity. Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said: "We have made great progress in recent years in making the relevance of tourism more visible and more appreciated by governments and tourists themselves. But we need to make it even clearer. For this reason , UNWTO is working to build a new narrative around tourism as a force for development and transformation."

The Thematic Session offered a platform to connect content creators with publishers and new media platforms, with UNWTO as the bridge between the two.

Branding and media experts lead the change: 

On behalf of the world leader Interbrand, Pedro Zarzalejos, Associate Director of Strategy and Borja Borrero, Executive Director Iberia, EMEA and Latam traced the evolution of the brand and analyzed how it has impacted the tourism sector.

Michael Collins , founder and CEO of Travel Media , provided expert insight into the changing relationship between Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) and publishers, journalists and content creators.
Instagram and Meta: Keeping Content Relevant
UNWTO first partnered with Instagram in 2021, first to help lead recovery from the impacts of the pandemic and then to empower destinations to embrace digital storytelling. In Punta Cana:

From Instagram, Ernest Voyard, Director of Public Policy, pointed out how creators are moving beyond aspirational travel-related content and instead focusing on issues around sustainability and full immersion in destinations.

From Meta, Sharon Yang, Director of External Affairs, noted how the platform has seen a shift towards creators providing informational content related to tourism and travel, again moving away from more aspirational images and films.

Tourism on the Agenda: The Case of the Dominican Republic: Prominent journalists and editors from the Dominican Republic evaluated how to place tourism on the editorial agenda at all levels.

Leading the debate were the Director of Diario Libre, Inés Aizpún, the Director of El Día, José Monegro, and the Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic to the UNWTO, Aníbal de Castro.

The panel highlighted the importance of diversifying core messaging, with a focus on everything from film and TV tourism to food tourism.

Content Creators: Raising Awareness
To round off the session, UNWTO welcomed top content creators to provide their expert insights on changing trends in tourism-related content: Instagrammers Chloé Léger and Marion Payr , offered their experiences from the Dominican Republic from the point of view of tourism and travel creators. They noted:

A growing interest in content that links tourism to topics including women's empowerment, community development and wildlife conservation.
An opportunity for creators to influence the travel choices and behaviors of tourists, in particular to influence younger consumers to travel more responsibly and ethically.


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