Van Schalkwyk to chair international tourism council

Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk will chair the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) aviation, travel and tourism industry agenda council, his department said on Wednesday.

“I believe the council plays a vital role in facilitating debate and the exchange of expertise in order to advise the World Economic Council and the international community on emerging issues in the tourism, travel and aviation sector,” Van Schalkwyk was quoted as saying in a statement after accepting the invitation from the WEF’s executive chair, Klaus Schwab.

He said a key problem the industry faced was the mentality that the various sectors were unrelated.

“Tourism and aviation are interdependent. Success in the one sector depends on and builds on success in the other.

“The WEF has played a vital role in bringing leaders from these sectors into the same room and in facilitating a forward-looking and inclusive dialogue between key stakeholders.”

He said the two sectors shared many problems, barriers and opportunities, which were highlighted during the 2008/09 global financial crisis and its aftermath.

Pertinent issues on the agenda were how travel, tourism and aviation could play a leadership role in the transition to a greener economy and how these sectors could contribute to an equitable global trade expansion.

The 2 500 participants at the annual WEF meeting include 900 chief executives representing the world’s global corporations, government representatives of the 25 top economies and fast-growing small countries, civil society leaders and academics.

The WEF holds ongoing programmes and meetings across the world, as well as its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where Van Schalkwyk had been part of the South African delegation for the past two years.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates for 2009, tourism’s direct and indirect contribution to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2,7% to R189,4-billion compared with 2008.

This represents 7,9% of GDP.

Van Schalkwyk will be the chair in 2010 and 2011. — Sapa

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