The UN General Assembly has met for a session dedicated to tourism
The High-level Thematic Debate was convened by the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Abdulla Shahid, in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization
In the General Assembly Hall, government representatives joined public and private stakeholders in recognizing the unique ability of tourism to drive positive change.
Tourism of hope and opportunity
As the first UNWTO Secretary-General to address the UN General Assembly, Zurab Pololikashvili stressed that “now is the time to build resilient and peaceful societies and tourism can help make this happen! Tourism is a leading provider of opportunities because it is based on people, builds bridges and helps create a better tomorrow for people everywhere.”
Joining Secretary-General Pololikashvili at the opening of the session were the President of the General Assembly and the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the UNSDG Amina J. Mohammed, who noted: “Every part of the United Nations system, including the World Tourism Organization as its specialized agency for the sector, can harness tourism to help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, from inclusive growth to gender empowerment and biodiversity protection.”
UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid also emphasized the importance of tourism, particularly for small islands and developing states. He said: "We face a critical opportunity not only to restart tourism, which so many depend on for their jobs and livelihoods, but also to transform it to be more resilient, more sustainable and more responsible."
Debate on people, planet and prosperity
A Fireside Chat, chaired by CNN International host Richard Quest, reflected on the challenges facing tourism recovery and discussed how best to reconcile potential trade-offs between the need for economic growth and job creation with advanced efforts to overall sustainability.
The high-level debate also featured a special panel discussion focused on tourism for people, with an emphasis on inclusion. This was followed by a panel discussion on how to accelerate the climate transformation of tourism. The final discussion of the third round table focused on revitalizing investments in tourism.
Placing tourism in the General Assembly
On the eve of the debate, UNWTO Secretary-General Pololikashvili had met with the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, to discuss the role of tourism in the broader work of the United Nations. President Shahid praised UNWTO's work in guiding tourism first through the biggest crisis in its history and now through the restart and recovery of the sector. The high-level meeting also laid the groundwork for the possible inclusion of tourism as a topic for annual debates or thematic sessions within the UN General Assembly.