Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities

High-Level Meeting on Tourism Policies for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

2 October 2017, Paris, France

(As prepared for delivery)


Madame Chair, Ministers, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen:


I am delighted to open the OECD High Level Meeting on Tourism Policies for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth. And all the more given today is the 100th session of the OECD Tourism Committee! In fact, the OECD has been working on tourism since 1948, looking at tourism promotion, travel liberalisation and facilitation, sustainable development, and quantitative and statistical issues, to name just a few.


Let me begin by thanking the Greek Government, and Minister Kountoura in particular, for chairing today’s discussion. I would also like to thank the Greek National Tourism Organisation and the Japan National Tourism Organisation for their generous support.


Tourism is a valuable asset, and it is growing

Tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing sectors in the world economy. International tourism has boomed since the 1950s, growing from just a few million arrivals to more than 1 billion in 2012. This strong growth is expected to continue. International tourist arrivals worldwide are forecast to increase by an average of 3.3% annually over the period 2010-30, particularly to and from emerging economies.


UNWTO forecasts indicate that arrivals in emerging economies will exceed those in advanced economies by 2020. China is now the number one outbound market in terms of both number of trips and expenditure, having grown exponentially over the past decade.


Tourism is a valuable source of job creation, export revenue and domestic value added, and it has strong potential to promote more inclusive growth and development. The OECD flagship publication, OECD Tourism Trends and Policies, shows that the tourism sector ─ domestic and international ─ directly contributes, on average, 4.1% of GDP, 5.9% of employment, and 21.3% of service exports to OECD economies. It is estimated that on average in the OECD, one Euro of value added in tourism creates 56 cents of value added in upstream industries.


This is an impressive contribution. However, the benefits of tourism flows are not always trickling down. Tourism is not an automatic source of inclusive growth. Sometimes it can even become an amplifier of inequalities. In many countries it has also become a source of pollution, environmental degradation and irreversible cultural damage, as local governments and businesses focus only on the business and tax dimensions of these flows.


This remains a challenge in many countries. Just this summer in Europe, the world’s most visited region, we saw a wave of high-profile “tourism-phobia” in some cities, with marches, posters and graffiti expressing hostility to un-managed tourism.


Thus, more needs to be done to harness tourism as an engine for long-term, sustainable, and inclusive growth.


Key challenges facing the tourism sector

Our study points to some of the largest challenges that tourism policymakers are facing and will keep facing in the years ahead. Let me highlight three that we consider crucial:

  • First, the digital economy is transforming tourism. Consumer demands are changing, as are tourism services linked to the sharing economy. Countries must respond to these changes by re-thinking how tourists experience destinations and how host communities can benefit. This means adapting policy and regulation accordingly.

  • Second, the tourism sector must support the global shift to a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy. Tourism has the potential to make a major contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, there is a need to provide the right incentives throughout the value chain, to promote sustainability, and to demonstrate that environmentally-friendly policies can also be business friendly. 

  • Third, investments to support sustainable and inclusive tourism growth are needed. OECD work highlights the importance of quality investment in tourism to enhance the attractiveness and competitiveness of destinations. Active policies are needed to increase the effectiveness of such investment. For example, to rejuvenate mature destinations, to support SMEs and local development, or to manage growing tourism demand in a more sustainable and inclusive manner.

A robust whole-of-government policy response is essential

Robust policy responses are critical to address these challenges. And, of course, we need to adopt integrated approaches across departments and all levels of government. For example:

  • We must better align strategic policy priorities to support tourism. For example, the OECD’s work on intermodal connectivity clearly shows country progress in aligning transport and tourism policies.

  • We also need to expand the evidence base to support policy development. Through our work on statistics, Tourism Trade in Value Added, and the new OECD Working Party on Tourism Statistics, we are advancing this agenda in partnership with countries.

  • Placing a greater focus on the implementation of strategic plans is also key. The OECD’s tourism policy reviews, such as our 2017 Tourism Policy Review of Mexico, are available to support effective implementation.

  • Finally, we need to adopt a medium- to long-term perspective by promoting an in-depth discussion on megatrends to ensure emerging issues are appropriately reflected in the strategic policy agenda. This includes developments in travel facilitation. This is an area in which the Tourism Committee is already closely engaged.


Ladies and Gentlemen:


Saint Augustine said “the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page”. Travel and tourism feed the soul and the mind. And they can benefit everyone, from the tourist, to the local communities in the host city or country. We need to make it work for all.


The OECD is well placed to support governments to ensure tourism is a force for sustainable and inclusive economic growth. This can only be achieved through well-designed, integrated and strategic policies and, crucially, by working together – governments at all levels, industry and civil society.


We will continue to work with you to ensure the tourism sector’s powerful economic potential is fully realised.


Thank you.




See also


OECD work on Tourism


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