President of Malta, Patron of the Mediterranean Tourism Foundation and UNWTO Special Ambassador for Sustainable Tourism Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca delivered the opening speech at the 5th Mediterranean Tourism Forum entitled ‘Mediterranean BLUE’.
“If I had to describe the Mediterranean Region in a word, I would say, unique – unique in its history, unique in its heritage, unique in its culture, unique in its beauty, unique in its diversity. Above all, unique for its peoples.”
During her speech, President Coleiro Preca said that the Mediterranean brings together different continents and cultures, thereby creating a dynamic space in which dialogue, cooperation and prosperity can truly flourish, adding that the countries of the Mediterranean have different demographic characteristics and contrasting levels of development, with intimately connected histories.
“We are a family, and like every family, we must want the best for one another, for all of us. For this reason, I believe that we must focus our collective efforts, to maximise its potential for peace and prosperity, through opportunities for respectful and sustainable tourism,” said the President.
Tourism is inherently flexible
President Coleiro Preca said that tourism provides a common ground on which our different strengths, drawn from various areas and sectors of the industry, can work together in synergy.
“Tourism as an industry, probably more than other industries, is an essential contributor for strong socio-economic growth, job creation, and the safeguarding of our historical and environmental heritage. Tourism is a sector that has a significant impact on livelihoods of billions of people, around the world”, stated the President whilst quoting the 2017 Economic Impact Report released by the World Travel and Tourism Council. The report stated that tourism generated one in every eleven jobs of the world’s employment opportunities last year. This translates to a total of 292 million jobs. The tourism sector also grew by 3.3% in 2017, and has outpaced the global economy for the sixth year in a row.
The report also notes that travel, tourism, and hospitality generated 10.2% of the global GDP, when the direct, indirect and induced impacts of the sector are all taken into account.
The President said that tourism is also inherently linked to diplomacy, “and hence, can be an ideal driver for the promotion of peace through diverse strategies and initiatives, which take place across the cultural, educational, entertainment and sports sectors, to mention a few.”
In fact, according to indicators by the World Travel and Tourism Council, in its ‘Tourism as a Driver of Peace’ report, research clearly reveals that there is “a positive correlation between tourism sectors, that shows sustainability in social, cultural, economic, political and environmental areas with ‘positive peace,” – which is not simply the absence of violence or armed conflict, but a deep-rooted and long-term transformation, which must happen within and among our communities, to make peace a sustainable reality for all.
“I am convinced that through the efforts of the hospitality and tourism industries and all stakeholders working in synergy, a peace-building mechanism can be created within our communities and societies. Thus, I believe that the private sector can play a powerful role, to contribute to global peace”, said the President.
“The Tourism sector has the unique ability to effect substantial social and economic changes for the benefit of many”
The President said that tourism can do so in three critical ways: by sustaining dialogue, by celebrating diversity, and by creating prosperity.
“Through this, the efforts of the tourism sector can help to create and to sustain more peaceful, more prosperous and hence, more resilient societies,” stated President Coleiro Preca, whilst adding that as tourism grows and the sector flourishes, a whole host of opportunities and skills open up for our countries’ respective peoples. Some of these opportunities include language-learning, business skills and hospitality training, which become key components to develop a more competent, diversified, flexible and competitive workforce.
The President said that in this way, the lives of countless individuals and families and their communities and businesses stand to benefit from increased investment in the peace-building potential of tourism, which will definitely lead to sustainable prosperity, a fact which is also underlined by the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG Number 8, which focuses on the importance of sustainable economies.
“The tourism sector also has the responsibility to respond effectively, to the objectives of Sustainable Development Goals Number 14 and 15, which target the sustainable future of our oceans and land mass, respectively,” added the President.
“Tourism has the potential to be a key contributor for peace and prosperity in our nations”
The President encouraged those present to work together, to achieve these goals, urging them to be innovative, to think outside the box, of how we can collaborate on bilateral and regional levels, for the benefit of our businesses and all of our peoples.
“Let me encourage all stakeholders, within the tourism industry, to lead by example, by encouraging dialogue, by creating opportunities for friendship; by celebrating diversity; by investing in our ecosystems, in our societies, and in our economies and by promoting positive peace across our world”, she stated.
On concluding, President Coleiro Preca urged those present to be ambassadors of sustainable tourism, for positive peace and inclusive prosperity.