“Tourism has become the best incentive for all economic and social policies,” said HE Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic during his first visit to the UNWTO headquarters. He stressed the importance of UNWTO to “contribute more in highlighting the real image of Lebanon: an image of tolerance, openness, freedom, and democracy.”
President Sleiman underscored the great potential of tourism “to achieve peace and build bridges of understanding.” He went on to reaffirm the commitment of Lebanon “to the UNWTO Roadmap for Recovery http://www.unwto.org/pdf/roadmap_EN.pdf regarding sustainable tourism.”
Lebanon is a founding member of UNWTO and since 1975 has occupied several key positions in the organization. It currently chairs the Commission for the Middle East. This is the first visit of a head of government of the Middle East to UNWTO.
In welcoming the President, UNWTO Secretary-General ad interim, Taleb Rifai, emphasized the understanding and support of Lebanon of the catalytic role of the travel and tourism sector for societies and economies.
See below for the complete statement of HE Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic.
“Mr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the UNWTO, Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen,
“Thank you very much for your kind invitation to the UNWTO headquarters. This is an important place where many hopes are pinned to chart the correct path forward through responsible steps towards promoting tourism and activating its role within the appropriate frameworks.
“Lebanon is a founding member of this organization. It has occupied several positions in the organization¹s Executive Council and its subsidiary bodies, such as the Committee on Budget and Finance or the Program Committee. It currently chairs the Commission for the Middle East.
“In a world that is interconnected and, at the same time, full of contradictions, there is a need today, more than ever before, to reaffirm the idea and concept of tourism and to promote tourism as a fundamental factor for the mingling of cultures, the exchange of ideas, and contributing to the achievement of peace. Tourism calls for the unification of human efforts through communication among peoples, through mutual understanding and exchange of expertise, capacities, potentials, and interests, and also through tourism’s positive impacts on the economy, culture, and political behavior. Tourism has become the best incentive for all economic and social policies. That is why the tourism industry is so important to all countries, especially to Lebanon, which is a pioneer in this industry in our region thanks to our natural, archaeological, cultural, and human resources – in the global sense of the term.
“Distinguished audience, emphasis has been placed recently on the concept of responsible, sustainable tourism as one of the most important strategic goals of UNWTO because of its great potential to achieve peace and build bridges of understanding, communication, and solidarity among different peoples, societies, traditions, and lifestyles. This is good, although the culture of peace needs to be further explored and the culture of justice further enhanced.
“Tourism is a great engine for economic and social development. It creates new jobs, attracts investments, and develops local communities. It brings people together and helps shape individual relationships, making this world a small global village.
“Distinguished audience, on the occasion of my visit to the UNWTO headquarters, let me stress the importance of our request that this organization contribute more in highlighting the real image of our country, Lebanon: an image of tolerance, openness, freedom, and democracy; an image of civilization, security, and stability. The organization could play this role through awareness-raising and information activities. What we request for our beloved country applies also to all our sister Arab countries.
“Distinguished audience, we would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm to the UNWTO, represented here by its new Secretary-General, Mr. Taleb Rifai, our commitment to the Road Map regarding sustainable tourism, which was approved at the 18th session of General Assembly in Kazakhstan in order for tourism and travel to recover as a fundamental instrument for job creation and economic prosperity at a time full of challenges in the aftermath of the global financial and economic crisis and its impacts on tourism.
“Lebanon will naturally contribute to supporting the activities and executive programs of UNWTO in the field of combating poverty through responsible and sustainable tourism, through the application of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, and through actions aimed at implementing the UN Millennium Development Goals.
“Your Excellency, Mr. Secretary-General, Lebanon will be prepared to fully cooperate with the UNWTO in order to achieve the organization’s lofty goals, once Lebanon occupies its seat as a newly-elected, non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the period 2010-2011.
“Let us work hand in hand for active, prosperous, and responsible tourism that would make our world a better place to live in and that would help the country of the cedars recover its prominent role on the tourism map.
“Long live the UNWTO; long live Lebanon.”