Tourism minister attends 25th session of UNWTO general assembly |23 October 2023
Foreign Affairs and Tourism Minister Sylvestre Radegonde, accompanied by a Seychelles delegation, took part in the 25th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly held in the historic city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
The delegation comprised Sherin Francis, principal secretary for Tourism; Chris Matombe, director for strategic planning; and Danio Vidot, protocol officer from the foreign affairs department.
During the opening day of the assembly, Seychelles took part in the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) committee of statistics meeting of which the country is currently serving as vice-chair.
In his address at the committee meeting, Minister Radegonde highlighted the accomplishments of Seychelles in developing a tourism satellite account (TSA) with the support of the UNWTO, becoming one of the first countries in the region to have managed to do so. The minister however also acknowledged the various challenges currently being faced with the project's implementation.
Minister Radegonde also outlined Seychelles’ sustainability efforts which include the management of tourism beds through a moratorium on large hotel projects. He explained the tourism strategy aimed towards fostering higher-value, lower-impact tourism by focusing on better and diversified products that attract tourists willing to spend more while visiting the destination. His address was in line with the UNWTO’s statistical committee’s forthcoming major project, measuring sustainability in tourism – a committee where Seychelles has managed to retain its seat for another term.
The 25th session of the general assembly was attended by over 117 countries and featured the participation of more than 70 ministerial representatives. The event spanned over four days, with two days dedicated to the general assembly’s agenda. Main highlights included the presentation of the secretary general’s report, which focuses on current trends in international tourism, as well as the implementation of the general programme of work items for 2022-2023, and the draft programme of work for 2024-2025.
Of notable significance was an agenda item proposed by Uzbekistan, seeking for the renewal of the secretary general’s mandate for a third mandate. This renewal was proposed to ensure the continuity of the vision and work programme initiated in 2018, along with supporting the various actions introduced during the pandemic to aid in the recovery of the tourism sector. Zurab Pololikashvili assumed the role of secretary general of UNWTO in 2018 and was reappointed for a second term at the end of 2021. The existing UNWTO statutes allow for the renewal of the secretary general’s mandate for a third term, subject to the recommendation of the executive council.
During the election process, 65 member states voted in favour of Mr Pololikashvili’s renewal as secretary general, falling short of the 69 votes required. Consequently, Mr Pololikashvili’s current mandate is set to conclude in 2025. However, it was further decided by the assembly for the executive council to consider the current secretary as an eligible candidate to serve for the period 2026-2029, subject to complying with the other criteria that the executive council customarily adopts and pending other conditions.
While in Uzbekistan, Minister Radegonde and delegation attended a series of bilateral meetings, including discussions with the deputy minister of foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, the Governor of Namangan province, and meeting with the minister for tourism of Zambia.
The next general assembly meeting is expected to be held in Saudi Arabia in 2025.