Asean, UNWTO battle effects of climate change to tourism

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr (center) introduces President Benigno Aquino 3rd to UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai at the International Conference on Tourism and Climate Change in Legazpi City, Albay DOT PHOTO

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr (center) introduces President Benigno Aquino 3rd to UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai at the International Conference on Tourism and Climate Change in Legazpi City, Albay DOT PHOTO

Stakeholders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) gathered on Legazpi City, Albay for a two-day conference on the effects of climate change in tourism.

Held last from May 19 to 20 at the Oriental Hotel in Legazpi City, the International Conference on Tourism and Climate Change gathered world leaders and experts who shared views and presented solutions on the challenges of climate change to tourism.

The two-day conference was divided into three sessions namely Policy and National Strategies on Tourism and Climate Change, Opportunities on Sustainable Tourism for Building a Low Carbon Development, and Stimulating Consumer Behavior on Innovative Climate Change and Mitigation and Adaptation Actions.

Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay gave the welcome remarks to the delegates.

It was followed by the opening address of UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai who said that tourism has become a central global phenomenon in the 21st century. He also noted that 1.87 billion people travelled internationally in 2013, generating 1.4 trillion US dollars worth of income, one out of 11 jobs in the world, and 9 percent of the world gross domestic product.

In 2013, the Philippines recorded a 9.56 percent growth in international arrivals with almost 4.7 million visitors from 4.3 million, while tourism receipts grew by 15.1 percent or equal to 4.4 billion US dollars (P186 billion).

“We are confident that tourism is a very important part of the future of the Philippines. This is an industry that not only creates jobs and generates income, it is an industry that celebrates everything that is beautiful in life, everything that we respect, everything that we cherish,” shared Rifai.

“I would dare to say that it is not only more fun in the Philippines, we even feel better in the Philippines. We are better people when we travel, and we definitely are ourselves more fun in the Philippines,” he ended in his speech.

Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino 3rd delivered the keynote address, emphasizing that sustainable tourism is essential to inclusive growth. “Clearly, as long as tourism can be pursued in a sustainable manner, then it is certainly one of the best sectors to focus on—and one of the shortest and most efficient paths to inclusive growth,” the chief executive said.

President Aquino further cited how tourism in Donsol through the presence of whale sharks (butanding) has improved the livelihood in the municipality. Donsol grew from a sixth class to a first class municipality in less than five years. A sixth class municipality earns an annual income of less than P15 million, while a first class municipality earns at least P55 million.

“This growth has been felt across the board, most especially by the fishermen, whose income has been bumped up from P300 a day to more than a P1,000 a day, depending on the season,” the President added.

The government’s immediate response is to plan ahead and reduce the impact of the effects of climate change on the tourist destinations. It has included climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as disaster risk reduction and management, among the major considerations for future development.

At the end of the two-day conference, UNWTO and Asean approved the Legazpi Declaration on Tourism’s Response to Climate Change. Its adoption is expected to speed up initiatives at the country, regional, and global levels.

For his part, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said, “We are very happy to host these international events, which yield very important agreements and protocols to harmonize, strengthen, and facilitate tourism development as countries and as neighbors. We thank the UNWTO and ASEAN organizers and participants for this wonderful opportunity to serve and share the world-renowned Filipino hospitality.


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