UNWTO unites South East Europe tourism ministers for sustainable travel

The first-ever meeting of ministers sets foundations for unprecedented collaboration in the region

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recently hosted its first-ever meeting of tourism ministers from South East Europe, laying the foundation for unprecedented collaboration among leaders in the region. The meeting, called the Future of Environmental Sustainable Tourism in Albania (FESTA), was organised by the Ministry of Tourism and Environment of the Republic of Albania in partnership with UNWTO, and was held in Tirana from 3 to 5 April 2023.

Ministers from eight countries in the region, namely Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, explored opportunities for greater cooperation on projects in the region. The participants agreed on plans to hold annual meetings of Ministers and State Secretaries to deliver better regional collaboration for tourism.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili underscored the great progress that tourism has made in becoming more sustainable, while stressing that much more needs to be done. He stated that “We must first focus on two priorities, namely people and investments because without the right people or the proper investments, our plans for a transformed tourism will not get off the ground.”

During the three-day forum, public and private sector leaders came together to focus on the challenges and opportunities of sustainable travel.

The UNWTO forum also emphasised the importance of strong and clear governance for advancing plans for greater sustainability across the tourism sector.

Tourism’s role in advancing the European Green Deal was also discussed during FESTA. Secretary-General Pololikashvili met with Executive Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans to discuss UNWTO’s initiatives in spearheading tourism’s shift to greater sustainability, including through the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism and the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative.

The meeting was a significant step towards promoting collaboration across borders in the region, and UNWTO’s leadership will continue to play a vital role in advancing sustainability in tourism. The tourism industry’s commitment to sustainability is more important than ever, and initiatives like FESTA demonstrate the willingness of leaders in the industry to work together towards a common goal.

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