Berlin, Germany / Madrid, Spain, 3 March 2015
In his ITB 2015 opening address, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai highlighted how new technologies are changing society and shaping the tourism sector, shifting power from governments and companies to citizens and consumers. Rifai recalled that with power comes responsibility and highlighted tourism´s capacity to overcome prejudice in an often divided world (ITB Berlin, Germany, 3 March 2015).
Speaking at the opening of ITB Berlin, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai underscored how the travel and the technological revolutions are shaping our society and how technology is changing the tourism sector. On the latter, he highlighted three main trends: the emergence of new business models, the call for accountability and the need for shared responsibility.
“Collaborative consumption is breeding new business models as individuals have found ways to profit by sharing their assets, be they real estate, vehicles or skills. While we must welcome innovation, we must also underline the need for the sector to find progressive solutions to safeguard consumer rights and quality standards and to ensure a level playing field for all businesses to thrive competitively”, said Rifai.
New digital platforms directly connecting consumers with companies and destinations are additional game changers. While consumers are increasingly easier to reach, they also have access to more information and opportunities to voice their opinions: “Today’s consumers can be the whistle-blowers for unethical practices or the biggest ambassadors for great experiences”, noted Rifai. “Going beyond words or slogans, destinations and companies must find ways to adapt and build their brand on concrete and relevant actions”.
“With the power brought in by technology comes also a bigger responsibility – a shared responsibility towards the planet and people” alerted Rifai.
“Over one billion tourists travel across international borders each year; I trust that this is a movement of hope; of opportunities to build a better world; a world of respect and understanding as we can never hate the one who has hosted us. We are thus part of a much bigger, transformative force that can instigate real change in the world; let’s take this power and act with responsibility”, concluded Mr. Rifai.
In 2014, international tourism grew once again above expectations. With a rise of 4.7% and a new record of 1,138 million tourists travelling the world in one single year, tourism delivered positive news amid a slow and uneven global economic recovery and geopolitical challenges.
Full opening speech by UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai (as prepared for delivery)
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