Secretary General Taleb Rifai of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said all the world’s people must go visit the Philippines at one time or another.
“You haven’t lived if you have not experienced the Philippines,” Rifai told the delegates at the opening ceremony of the 6th UNWTO International Conference on Tourism Statistics at the Newport Performing Arts Theatre of the Resorts World Manila.
“We are here, ladies and gentlemen, to tell the world to come to the Philippines and make no mistake about it. Anybody who tries to present any other version of the story should come and see with your own eyes. All of the countries of the world that have experienced difficulties have come back and have shown their best and their beauty comes out,” Rifai added.
The UNWTO head said the year’s gathering is a “homecoming” and a milestone since Manila last hosted the WTO conference in 1980.
“The world is lucky to have the Philippines. Culture, nature, upbeat people give the country so much life. The Philippines is a country to travel and respect, and its greatest gift is its people,” Rifai added.
The opening ceremony was attended by Senate President Koko Pimentel III, Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Wanda Teo, Tourism Ministers from Thailand, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Fiji, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Seychelles, and 721 international and local delegates.
Meanwhile, DOT Secretary Teo has continued to push sustainable tourism on a global level by urging leaders to support tourism-related policy making.
“We hope that the Manila Call for Action will be adopted at this forum to demonstrate our common resolve to create a better world for our children and future generations,” she said.
In a statement, President Rodrigo Duterte also thanked UNWTO for choosing the Philippines as the venue for the conference.
“More than just a proof that the Philippines remains a safe destination for meetings, conferences, and other tourism activities, it also affirms the Philippines’ effort to promote tourism as a vehicle for a nation’s sustainability and inclusive progress,” he said in a statement read by Teo.
Senate President Pimentel likewise assured the delegates that the situation in Mindanao is temporary.
“I am confident that once this crisis is over, we will have peace and security in that region that will result in more tourists visiting Southern Philippines,” said Pimentel.