“Safety, security, international cooperation and peace are key factors to ensure the sustainable development of the tourism sector,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, at the Bled Strategic Forum, an annual meeting held in Slovenia. The occasion provided with the opportunity to present the UNWTO/World Travel&Tourism Council (WTTC) Open Letter on Travel and Tourism to Miro Cerrar, the Prime Minister of Slovenia.

The UNWTO/WTTC Open Letter calls on heads of state and government around the world to acknowledge tourism's key role in delivering more sustained and balanced growth and prioritize the sector higher in national policies in order to maximize its potential. In the presentation of the Letter, UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai and Gerald Lawless, Chairman of the WTTC, discussed the key factors affecting tourism development with the Slovenian Prime Minister.
“A major issue we face in our sector is that tourism is still underestimated by some leaders, particularly in its potential for job creation. My recommendation is to always include tourism in the policy agenda and consider travel facilitation as a key issue,” said UNWTO Secretary-General in the meeting with the Prime Minister.

The potential of Slovenia as a touristic destination guided the discussion and as Gerald Lawless, Chairman of WTTC, said: “Slovenia is a beautiful tourist destination. Currently, the Travel&Tourism sector contributes EUR4.9 billion to the Slovenian economy, which is 13% of the country’s GDP and supports over 13% of total employment. The Slovenian government and its people will see great further benefits from the commitment to the sustainable development of Travel&Tourism as investment in the sector will lead to higher visitor numbers and expenditure, and increased employment opportunities throughout the country”.

The contribution of tourism to the Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was widely discussed in the Bled Forum. As UNWTO Secretary General stated, “it is very clear that security cannot exist without sustainability and vice versa. Indeed, tourism has never been more of an essential component of sustainable growth and stability”.

“Slovenia has become synonymous with sustainability and has also recognised the importance of cooperation in achieving sustainability and security – he mentioned - and UNWTO is convinced that in the present challenging times only by working together current concerns can be overcome and a better future is possible.”

Over the last years, the Bled Strategic Forum, has become a major incubator to debate current issues on development. In its 2016 edition the Summit has tackled tourism as a key driver for growth, job creation and environmental protection.

On the occasion, seven Slovenian companies signed the Private Sector Commitment to the Global Code of Ethics of Tourism expressing their engagement with sustainable tourism practices*.