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Hallelujah to the UNWTO Commission for Europe Bulgaria Show

, Hallelujah to the UNWTO Commission for Europe Bulgaria Show, eTurboNews | eTN
UNWTO Commission Europe Meeting Bulgaria

The UNWTO Commission for Europe met in Bulgaria. Two very different versions and views on this award giving event emerged.

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I take note of this doll box around the corner from me, a Bulgarian reader in Sofia told eTurboNews. The reader referred to the just concluded UNWTO Commission meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria.

He continues to comment: “Regionally, this meeting was in no way related to the industry.

“The participants sing their “Hallelujah” but have no obligations. They are on their payroll and travel expense report.

No industry specialists in the private tourism or hospitality industry were invited. WTTC was absent.

“This even counted for the local level. I also didn’t see any executives of the active industry structures. So a hodgepodge of order takers and typewriters.

I will give the caretaker Tourism Minister a good kick in the bottom. In my position, I’m allowed to do that”, the eTN reader from Bulgaria said. “Hopefully, he’ll ask why. “

As it has become a habit since UNWTO Secretary Zurab took the helm of UNWTO, there was no relevant press, and the press attending had to be silent and were encouraged to take a photo of the delegates posing for the photo. No questions could be asked.

The participating faces were somewhat familiar.

The eTN reader concluded: “I see no impact on the industry. It was more like a social talk for the conference participants. It included a happy lunch and a good dinner.”

The outgoing Bulgarian Minister of Tourism could tie his strings.

The official, no question allowed report about the European Commission meeting published by UNWTO had a different version of the meeting :

European tourism leaders have met to advance shared plans for the sector’s future. The 68th meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for Europe (31 May – 2 June, Sofia, Bulgaria) assessed the current state of tourism in the region while also recognizing the vital importance of education, jobs, and investments for a more inclusive and sustainable future.

Ahead of the meeting, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili met with President Rumen Radev and the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Galab Donev, accompanied by Minister of Tourism of Bulgaria Ilin Dimitrov, to discuss shared priorities and areas of cooperation.

  • Prime Minister Donev welcomed the latest UNWTO data, which shows Bulgaria is among the fastest-recovering of European destinations, with international arrivals in the first quarter of the year 27% higher than in 2019.
  • In recognition of their leadership, President Radev awarded UNWTO Secretary-General Pololikashvili and the Director for Europe Alessandra Priante with the Order of Saints Cyril and Methodius, 1st Class and 2nd Class, respectively, at a special ceremony in the Coat of Arms Hall.
  • The two parties recognized tourism’s importance for economic development and strengthening peace and understanding.
  • The UNWTO delegation welcomed the Bulgarian Government’s work to diversify its tourism sector, focusing on growing new areas, including wellness, health, and gastronomy tourism and supporting rural communities.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “European tourism is recovering strongly and on track to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year. This is exactly the time to step up our efforts to transform our sector, with a skilled workforce and proper investments vital for making it more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive.”

While this tourism conference took place, Bulgaria had its issue with the nomination of the tourism minister.

“The nomination of Zaritsa Dinkova for Minister of Tourism is a complete disappointment. This will be a person who will learn on our backs,” Richard Alibegov, chairman of the Confederation of Bulgarian Tourism Business and chairman of the Bulgarian Association of Restaurants, told Travel News Bulgaria. “The parties announced that they are looking for the best experts for all ministries, and we are looking for a person who has nothing to do with tourism, which is scandalous,” he added.

Dr. Dimitrov opened the UNWTO conference on “Education and skills in health and wellness tourism.”

High-level delegations representing 40 countries, with historic high participation, including Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Tourism, gathered for the Regional Commission. Member States were given an overview of UNWTO’s work, with a focus on:

  • Jobs: UNWTO continues to support the Institutions of the European Union in the context of the European Year of Skills, with the co-implementation phase of the EU Transition Pathway for Tourism now underway to re-skill the tourism workforce of the European Union.
  • Education: Members were updated on creating a first Bachelor’s Degree in Sustainable Tourism Management in partnership with the Lucerne University of Applied Arts and Sciences and launching a toolkit designed to help make tourism a subject in high schools worldwide.
  • Investments: Identified as a key priority for the sector, UNWTO set the stage for World Tourism Day 2023 (27 September) with its theme of ‘Green Investments’ and also looked ahead to the UNWTO Tourism Investment Forum (Yerevan, Armenia, September 2023).
  • Sustainability: UNWTO continues to guide global tourism’s climate action efforts; key works include the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative (49 signatories to date, with 17 from European countries) and the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism (800+ signatories to date, more than half from Europe).

The UNWTO Regional Director outlined how European Members champion tourism as a driver of resilience and recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic and amid the fragile socio-political situation in the region caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Adhering to the Organization’s statutory obligations, Members agreed:

  • Ukraine will serve as the Chair of the Commission for Europe for the period 2023 to 2025. Greece and Hungary will serve as the Vice Chairs.
  • World Tourism Day 2024, to be held around the theme of “Tourism and Peace,” will be officially hosted by Georgia.
  • The Commission will meet in Uzbekistan this fall for its 69th meeting and in Albania in 2024 for its 70th meeting.

On the eve of the meeting, UNWTO launched the Global Startup Competition for Mega Events and MICE Tourism, with the support of the Government of Uzbekistan and the participation of UEFA, the International Congress and Convention Association, and Mastercard.

About the author


Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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