Tunis — "Tunisia is bidding for the August 2013 elections of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Executive Board to represent Africa," Tourism Minister Jamel Gamra announced on Wednesday.
He added, in a statement to TAP news agency, on the fringes of the 54th meeting of UNWTO Commission for Africa held Wednesday in Gammarth (Tunis suburbs), that "this membership will allow Tunisia to be a junction point between Africa and Europe and a relay destination in the continent."
The Minister stressed the need to "implement the different tourism agreements signed between Tunisia and African countries by establishing joint implementation mechanisms supported by the organisation."
Tunisia is ready to contribute to the implementation of a "joint programme for the development of the tourist sector in Africa and diagnose and resolve its problems," Mr. Gamra went on saying.
"The country is also willing to contribute to developing an upgrading programme of human skills and improvement of the quality of hotels, resorts and travels," he further said.
Interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh called, at the opening of this two-day meeting, on all tourism players in Africa to combine their efforts, especially in this period to put an end to difficulties impeding the sector's development in the African region.
He urged increasing air links, improving infrastructure and enhancing training of specialised workforce and distribution chains.
"The Tunisian Revolution (December 17, 2010/ January 14, 2011), which has caught the attention of the world, is a real opportunity that must be valued," added the Prime Minister.
He also called for drawing on natural and cultural reserves as well as the social specifics of the African continent to give a fresh impetus to tourism.
Mr. Larayedh pointed to the efforts made by Tunisia to strengthen international co-operation and exchange of experiences and expertise in this area.
He reminded of the actions taken to promote the marketing system of the Tunisian tourist product and coaching of tourist companies operating in the sectors of accommodation, travel and entertainment.
For his part, Secretary-General of the WTO Taleb Rifai called on African countries to make the most of new information and communication technologies in the tourism field.
The official highlighted the importance of inter-African tourism, calling for increasing "investment in the characteristics of each African country," diversifying products and services and modernising infrastructure and hotels.
A "private sector commitment to the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism," established by the UNWTO was signed during the meeting by President of the Tunisian Federation of Travel Agencies (FTAV), the Secretary-General of the Tunisian Hotel Trade Federation (FTH) and Cote d'Ivoire's Tourism Ministry.
The meeting, which is held for the first time in Tunisia, is attended by 250 participants from 24 countries and 15 African Tourism Ministers, in addition to 115 Arab and foreign delegates.
The 54th meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa is held concurrently with the International Tourism Market (MIT) and the international conference on "Current Challenges and Issues for African Tourism: What Solutions can be adopted to ensure its competitiveness?"