VIENNA – The Colombian candidate for secretary general of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Jaime Alberto Cabal, seeks to make tourism an instrument for sustainable development worldwide and believes this United Nations agency could be a lot more useful for its member states.
Cabal, Colombia’s former economic development minister and current ambassador to Austria, is one of seven candidates attempting to succeed Taleb Rifai for the 2018-2021 term.
“We should begin to harmonize the goals of world tourism with the goals the world needs for sustainable development,” Cabal told EFE in Vienna, with regard to his plans for the Madrid-based UNWTO if he is elected secretary general.
One of the Colombian candidate’s proposals to “renovate and transform” UNWTO is to create a Tourism Development Fund for projects in less-developed countries, financed by governments, multilateral banks and private companies of the sector.
Specifically, cooperation between governments and the private sector is one of the things that Cabal says makes UNWTO unique and that could and should be strengthened.
“Just as there is awareness of tourism’s social and economic benefits, there is also concern at many tourist destinations about what it’s doing to the environment,” a dichotomy for which he, if picked to head the UNWTO, would work to achieve a “healthy balance.”
Cabal said last year there were more than 1.2 billion tourists worldwide and that digitization, social networks and technology have transformed the sector, and one of the big problems is that the benefits don’t reach everyone.
“Particularly in developing countries, providers of tourism services are owners of small or medium-sized businesses like hotels, restaurants, tour operators...and for them access to such technology is complicated and costly,” he said.
“The UNWTO must influence member-states so that small and medium-sized companies have the resources to compete on equal terms with the big platforms and big companies,” he said.
Another of Cabal’s goals is to lure big countries that are important to tourism, like the US, UK and Canada, into the UNWTO.
The agency’s next secretary general will be elected on May 11-12 from among candidates representing Colombia, Brazil, Armenia, Georgia, South Korea, Seychelles and Zimbabwe.