ITB Berlin 2024: UN Tourism Chief emphasises global tourism recovery, unveils WTD theme


The UN Tourism Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili has declared that global tourism has bounced back from the worst crisis in history.

He made the declaration in his opening remarks at this year’s edition of the ITB Berlin, in Germany, on March 4, 2024.

Speaking at the world’s leading travel export, Zurab Pololikashvili said that it was with great pleasure that the UN agency returned to Berlin and at Messe Berlin, which he described as a valued UN Tourism Affiliate Member for 40 years now.

“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to each of you for continuously elevating this gathering into a cornerstone event of the tourism calendar,” Pololikashvili said.

“Tourism has bounced back from the worst crisis in our history,” he continued.
According to him, the latest UN Tourism data paints a vivid picture of the swift rebound of tourism globally. “In the past year alone, destinations worldwide welcomed 1.3 billion international tourists. That was 34% up on 2022,” the data revealed.

With the above, he noted that the tourism industry ended last year at 88% of pre-pandemic arrival numbers globally. “Our analysis suggests we will be 2% above pre-pandemic levels in 2024. The comeback is complete,” he said.

As well, every region is performing well. “Europe reached 94% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023. Germany, our host this week, welcomed around 35 million international tourists last year – around 88% of 2019 levels.

“Africa recovered 96%. The Americas recovered 90%. Asia and the Pacific reached 65% – but we expect this to accelerate now that the region has fully opened up again.
“And the Middle East was actually 19% above pre-pandemic levels by the end of last year”.

These achievements, according to him, stands as a statement to the collective resilience and steadfast determination. He also commended each and every individual who contributed to supporting the industry through the hardest of times.
But he equally emphasized that the success is not solely measured by arrival numbers.

“Last year, tourism gross domestic product reached 3.3 trillion US dollars, or 3% of global GDP, the same level as in 2019. Tourism spending is also up. In many places it’s even above pre-pandemic levels. Last year, Germany really established itself as one of the world’s top tourism source markets, spending 13% more than in 2019”.

This influx of capital not only sustains livelihoods and enterprises but also fosters economic growth in the most vulnerable communities worldwide, Pololikashvili said.

For him, that is the reason tourism’s return means so much to so many people, while further describing tourism as a great uniting force.

“Together, we are growing new areas of our sector. To build greater resilience and spread the benefits tourism offers even wider.”

ITB Berlin & WTD 20024 Theme
Back to ITB Berlin, the UN Tourism boss noted that the expo remains the leading stage for the work done so far and the feats being reaped across business travel, cultural tourism, medical and health tourism.

These priorities, he noted, underscore the commitment, and he is happy to see them highlighted at the travel expo.

However, he explained that this year’s visit holds special significance, maybe more than ever.

“This time, we come with our new name and our new logo. As UN Tourism, we are more visible than ever before. And I will continue to represent our sector at the very highest level of global governance,” he noted.

He also expressed his appreciation to the official host country for this week’s events, the Sultanate of Oman, saying that this is a historic moment for Oman, as ITB Berlin places it on the world map and their partnership with ITB comes at a notable time.

“It is 20 years since UN Tourism welcomed Oman as a valued member. Since then, Oman has not only grown as a destination but has also actively contributed to our work.”

“Our data shows that the Sultanate welcomed an incredible 2 million international tourists in 2022 alone. That was an increase of more than 350% on the previous year.
“It’s home to the winners of one of our Students League competitions – and to the Best Tourism Village, ’Misfat Al Abriyeen’.

“In May, we will be in Muscat for our Regional Commission for the Middle East. I look forward for this enriching visit as Oman’s tourism sector continues to flourish, showcasing the nation’s hospitality and commitment to sustainable growth and innovation, where H.E. Minister Al Mahrouqi plays a pivotal role”.

The Secretary General also used the ITB Berlin platform to announce this year’s World Tourism Day (WTD) theme.

“This year, we will celebrate World Tourism Day around the theme of “Tourism for Peace”. I urge you all to get behind this message. But for now, I wish you all an inspiring and productive ITB,” he concluded.


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