Asia-Pacific tourism leaders gather in Maldives

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As destinations across the region opens up, the first in-person gathering of the UN World Tourism Organisation’s commissions for South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific took place in the Maldives on 14 June.

The high-level meeting was held at the Crossroads resort. Representatives from 19 member states, as well as from the UNWTO’s network of affiliate members and international organisations, identified the key challenges and opportunities ahead.

“For many millions of people across Asia and the Pacific, tourism is an essential lifeline. Its return is vital and must be based around the pillars of inclusion and sustainability, for the benefit of all,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili in his speech at the opening of the Joint Commission meeting.

Pololikashvili provided an overview of trends and statistics followed by an update on the UNWTO’s work in the past year. He stressed the importance of “working together to lift travel restrictions, with coordination key to restarting tourism and for restoring confidence in international travel.”

According to UNWTO data, a 64% increase in international arrivals was recorded in the first quarter of 2022.

The Maldives is hosting three key annual events of the UNWTO as part of golden jubilee celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of tourism in the country.

“Though the road to recovery is still uncertain and many challenges remain, global coordination through similar platforms will open up the opportunity to build back more comprehensively towards a sustainable, inclusive and resilient tourism sector for the future,” said Dr Abdulla Mausoom in his remarks to welcome delegates. The Maldives tourism minister chaired the joint meeting of the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific and the UNWTO Commission for South Asia (CAP- CSA).

The tourism ministry and UNWTO also partnered to host a Ministerial Roundtable on ‘Tourism Resilience through Innovation and Digitalisation in Asia and the Pacific,’ which “explored ways in which new technology and new ideas can help better protect tourism against shocks including future pandemics as well as extreme weather events,” and a two-day ‘Global Summit on Community-based Tourism’ with public and private sector experts focusing on the “potential of gastronomy tourism, agro-tourism and community-based tourism for sustainable and inclusive development.”

Concluding the joint meeting on Tuesday, member states voted to hold the next gathering in Cambodia in 2023.