Q: You’re new in this role, having assumed the position on January 1, 2018. What is at the top of your agenda?
A: To support countries and new destinations to develop infrastructure and attract more investment in tourism: that’s one of the top priorities. When we are talking about investment and new projects it is directly related to job creation, which is our main challenge and a field where we are going to be very active. We are supporting investments and the creation of new job opportunities.
Of course there are also very important security issues. We propose to talk with the countries and give them some recommendations regarding the security issues that are directly related to tourism.
Another very important part of my mandate will be innovation and to support start-ups and new projects in tourism. There are lots of interesting creative ideas. We are talking with many big companies about how we can support start-ups all around the world. My objective is to attract more private companies and to invite lots of partners in every country to support entrepreneurs and SMEs and create new jobs. That’s another big and interesting challenge.
Another top priority for me will be to be closer with the member states, because we have 156 member states and our philosophy is to identify their needs, and to provide guidelines and recommendations.
We are also focusing on the new products, new destinations. Gastronomy, for example, has become part of tourism and it is very interesting how it is growing all over the world. We want to develop cultural tourism and rural tourism. We have many events during the year [focused on new products]. We are looking forward to doing that. That is going to be another important factor of the job.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the tourism industry right now?
A: One of them, again, is investments, because many countries need more. Infrastructure is another. Without infrastructure and connectivity it is impossible to develop the tourism sector. Visa facilitation is also directly related to security but we are doing lots of research and giving recommendations and supporting governments to facilitate visa regimes. That is one of the most important challenges for us. Of course there are barriers sometimes, and we have terrorist attacks that also affect tourism. We are following the situations on a case-by-case and country-by-country process.
Q: Where do you see potential growth in products and destinations? What are the new exciting areas?
A: In the future of tourism I see Africa. It is not as developed as other parts of the world. Africa, with its size and potential, maybe has 50 to 100 years of work in the future, which for investment is one of the pillars of the continent, so of course we will be very active there.
South America is also very interesting and a new destination for tourism. Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Argentina: there are still a lot of underdeveloped destinations on the continent. Of course I do not want to forget Asia-Pacific countries, such as China. So there are lots of possibilities.