Al-Ahram Weekly Online   7 - 13 May 2009
Issue No. 946
Sky High
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Tourism talk: A roadmap for 2030

THE NEED for the tourism sector to invest in the education, training and development of the labour force to secure its future was highlighted at United Nations World Tourism Organisation's Qatar Summit, which took place 22-23 April.

During the two-day event, 250 participants shared different experiences to create a roadmap and identified the key issues facing tourism human resources in the region.

According to the January 2009 issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometre, international tourist arrivals worldwide increased by 2 per cent in 2008.

The Middle East registered the best performance among all world regions with 11 per cent growth in international tourist arrivals over the previous year.

Based on passenger traffic data from worldwide airports for the first two months of 2009, it appears that of all regions, the Middle East, with a positive traffic growth of 3.1 per cent, is the least affected by the global crisis thus far.

UNWTO secretary general Dr Taleb Rifai presented to the members of the Commission a snapshot analysis of the current economic downturn's impact on tourism in the Middle East and North Africa.

Country briefs and response measures were also discussed in a regional perspective. The official presented the research programme: "Tourism towards 2030", as well as regional training programmes and possible adjustments in light of the global economic downturn.

The summit demonstrated the complexity of labour markets in the region and constantly returned to the fact that the rapid growth of tourism in the region brings with it issues of labour supply gaps and skills shortage.

Longer-term challenges include the poor image and lack of understanding of tourism jobs, and the fact that availability of labour and skills is highly variable across the region.

Tourism employment comes in the shape of a broad spectrum of roles and varied tasks, across all sectors benefiting in particular women, the young and the unemployed.

The summit addressed these issues as key pillars of reform which focusses on the need to change the mindset of both governments and communities towards employment in tourism and the necessary understanding of labour markets.

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