During a recent visit to Brussels, Belgium, the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai, has discussed how to reinforce the collaboration of the Organization with the European Union (EU). Rifai met the EU Commissioners for Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, Tibor Navracsics; for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella; and for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica. Issues such as the links between culture and tourism, the EU Blue Growth Agenda, namely in the areas of oceans and biodiversity, the 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and the Sustainable Tourism Goals (SDGs) were in the agenda.
During the visit, Rifai also met the Deputy-Prime Minister of Belgium, Kris Peeters, and, Ben Weyets the Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works, the Vlaamse Randa, Tourism and Animal Welfare. Under the auspices of Minister Weyets, UNWTO signed an agreement with the Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs to jointly develop a set of guidelines for tourism on war-related historical sites.

UNWTO welcomes EU-China Year of Tourism
Rifai has also welcomed the EU-China Year of Tourism during his recent participation at the 1st anniversary of the Europe China OBOR Culture & Tourism Development Committee of the Europe-China One Belt One Road initiative.
The event held in Brussels, Belgium, stressed the relevance of tourism and culture in strengthening the links between the European Union and China.
“The Committee works to ensure that the tourism sector within the European Union responds with a unified voice to the immense potential of the Chinese tourism market and the One Belt One Road initiative, one of the largest ever investment plans. The support of UNWTO to the Committee and to the EU-China Year of Tourism in 2018 is of critical value” said István Ujhelyi, President of the Committee.

On the occasion of his visit to Brussels, Rifai also signed an agreement with the Network of European Regions for Competitive and Sustainable Tourism (NECsTouR) to work on several issues including the promotion of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.
“Bearing in mind UNWTO and NECSTouR common priorities and considering the fruitful cooperation between our organizations, including NECSTouR intention to join UNWTO as an Affiliate Member, this agreement is a natural step. We trust it will generate many valuable opportunities” said the President of NECSTouR, Octavi Bono.

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