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UNWTO Secretary General highlights Sharjah’s role in world tourism
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai addressed American University of Sharjah (AUS) students on May 3, 2015 on the current trends in the tourism industry and the prospects and opportunities available for students. Dr. Rifai spoke of the role of Sharjah in tourism by highlighting the respect for authenticity and the pride in exhibiting and sharing of its culture with the rest of the world and expressed his wish to take part in the success story that would unfold in the future alongside the leaders of Sharjah.
Dr. Rifai brought the audience's attention to the "travel revolution" taking place today by stating, "In 1950, there were only 22 million people that were able to cross international borders. Today, in 2015, 1.138 billion tourists cross international borders every year; 5.5 to 6 billion travel domestically within their own countries. We are representing nine percent of world GDP; 30 percent of world trade and services are from the travel and tourism industry."
He encouraged the students to join the tourism industry by saying that it is the most welcoming sector for first entry into the labor market and spoke of the unlimited learning opportunities available through this industry. He also hailed the effort of women in this industry, who form 60 percent of the workforce and stressed on bringing them into positions of leadership.
The UNWTO Secretary General proposed a four-pronged approach to bring the tourism industry to the forefront by raising awareness and creating incentives; developing skills and institutions; building education training and research capacities; and developing monitoring systems to measure the progress.
"With people meeting people, we can hope that, with time, this world will be a better place. Tourism is the industry that celebrates our differences, diversity and uniqueness. It brings the best out of us," he said.
Dr. Rifai is Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) based in Madrid, Spain. Previously he held senior positions in UNWTO and the ILO (International Labour Organization) and the Jordanian Government. He has also served as CEO of Jordan Cement Company and Professor of Architecture, Planning and Urban Design at the University of Jordan. He received his PhD in Urban Design and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA (1983), and a MS in Engineering and Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago, USA (1979). He also attained a BS in Architectural Engineering from the University of Cairo in 1973.
The lecture was organized by the School of Business and Administration at American University of Sharjah.