T-20 ministers discuss tourism, economy

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pretoria - Tourism ministers of the Group of 20 nations are currently meeting to discuss how best the industry will assist in the global recovery.

The meeting, which is dubbed the T-20, under the theme: "Travel and tourism: stimuli for the global economy," is taking place in Sandton, Johannesburg.

Tourism is seen globally and in South Africa as a vital contributor to economic growth as well as a key job provider and therefore vital in driving the economic recovery globally.

Speaking at the opening of the summit on Tuesday, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the meeting must help answer how tourism can help to rebuild the global economy, adapt existing tourism models to new challenges while accommodating both economic and ecological imperatives.

"We must ask how, together, we can build a sustainable and resilient sector," he told the gathering.

He urged the meeting to go away with the method of "business as usual" and work smarter and more flexibly. "We need to speak as one and be seen to speak as one."

United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Secretary General Taleb Rifai echoed the same sentiments.

He said thou there were positive signs emerging from the global economy, recovery was still weak and uneven.

"Unemployment in particular is our major challenge; public debt and large budget deficits are also alarming. We must therefore assume that the world will continue to need to strengthen both its resilience and stimulus," said Rifai.

The ministers representing the G-20 countries control more than half the global travel industry, in 2008 accounting for 634-million visitors and R697-billion in tourism spend.

On the agenda will be job creation, sustainability of markets and the building of an eco-friendly tourism sector. The ministers will draw up a communique which will be delivered to the G-20 meeting in Canada later this year.