UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, and the French Minister of State in charge of Tourism, Fleur Pellerin, met to discuss the new tourism strategy of France as well as how to further strengthen the collaboration with UNWTO. Issues on the agenda included visa facilitation, taxation and the World Committee on Tourism Ethics (Paris, 30 June 2014).
Mr. Rifai commended the decision of France to place tourism as a national ‘cause’ and welcomed the 30 measures recently announced by the Government to promote the competitiveness of the sector, in particular the visa facilitation measures. These include, among other, the extension of the ‘visas in 48 hours’ initiative, launched in China in early 2014, to several Gulf countries, South Africa and India. Ms. Pellerin explained that the measure had translated into an exponential growth in the number of visas issued in the Chinese market from 30 to 250%.
“The call by President Hollande to place tourism as a national cause clearly shows the value that is awarded to the sector in France as a means to create jobs and improve the balance of payments”, said Mr Rifai. “France is a tourism leader, the most visited destination in the world, and is aware that keeping such position in today’s competitive market requires strong cross-cutting policies that support the sector. At UNWTO we particularly welcome the measures adopted by France to promote visa facilitation, one of our priorities, as we trust that, as our research shows, these measures yield significant return in terms of economic growth and job creation”, he added.
Further issues on the agenda included tourism taxation and the integration of tourism under the portfolio of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, a decision welcomed by UNWTO as it provides an opportunity to advance key issues such as travel facilitation and the inclusion of tourism in the international trade agenda. On the issue of taxation, Mr Rifai recalled UNWTO position on the importance of evaluating the global impact on the economy of any changes in tourism taxation and welcomed the fact that a possible raise of tourism taxes in France currently under discussion is being seriously debated considering such impact.
On the occasion of his visit to France, Mr Rifai addressed the 3rd Parliamentarian Meeting on Tourism (3e Rencontres Parlementaires sur le Tourisme: Et si le redressement passait par le tourisme?) highlighting the role of the sector in accelerating the economic recovery in Europe.