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Taleb Rifai tells aviation and tourism sectors to work together to ensure future growth.

The UNWTO has urged countries to remove restrictions on travel, to enable the tourism industry to reach its full potential.

unwtoAddressing the Royal Aeronautical Society at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) headquarters in Canada this month, UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai called for increased visa facilitation and the liberalisation of the air transport industry.

Achieving greater collaboration between the tourism and aviation sectors, he said, would help stimulate the global economy and create more opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship.

“If we are to achieve the forecast rise in international tourist arrivals from one billion in 2012 to 1.8 billion in 2030… we must work as one,” Rifai said. “Increased coordination among airlines, tourism destinations and airport authorities at national level, and the joint work of UNWTO and ICAO at the global level, will help position travel and tourism as a strategic sector with air transport at its core,” he added.

Rifai emphasised market liberalisation as a key factor in the development of civil aviation and tourism, citing World Trade Organization (WTO) estimates showing that replacing the most restrictive bilateral air agreements by most liberal ones could increase air traffic by over 75%.

On the issue of visa facilitation, Rifai stressed that restrictive visa policies and complicated entry formalities are still stifling travel and tourism growth, particularly from emerging economies, which are some of the fastest-growing tourism source markets.

According to joint research from the UNWTO and World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), increased visa facilitation could add as many as 5.1 million additional jobs in the G20 economies by 2015, and 2.6 million new jobs in Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies by 2016.

Other key issues addressed were consumer protection in the tourism industry, taxation, and the promotion of sustainable development.