Asia and Pacific members of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, or UNWTO, reiterated their support for a common vision of sustainable tourism in the region. 

The UNWTO is a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for promoting sustainable and responsible tourism globally. 

Members in the region include China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. Singapore is not a member. 

Representatives from member states gathered at the 35th joint meeting of the UNWTO, the UNWTO Commission for East Asia & the Pacific and the UNWTO Commission for South Asia. The meeting took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia last Friday. 

“Asia and the Pacific plays a key role in the state of our sector. It is a top source market, a hub of tourism innovation and home to many of the world’s leading businesses and most exciting destinations,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a statement on Monday.  

The support of UNWTO members is significant as the tourism industry rebuilds after being battered by the global Covid-19 pandemic.  

The number of people travelling internationally in the first quarter of 2023 doubled from a year prior, according to the UNWTO. This brought global tourism back to 80% of pre-pandemic levels.  

Specific to the Asia & Pacific region, international arrivals in the quarter were back to around 54% of pre-pandemic levels.  

“Recovery across the region is expected to accelerate following the re-opening of China to tourism. China was the world’s biggest tourism source market in 2019,” the UNWTO said.  

However, China’s economic recovery is looking sluggish after a period of strong growth in the first three months of the year after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.  

China’s moderate growth may dampen travel demand in the area for the time being, as the world’s second-largest economy implements measures to get their economy back on track towards stronger growth. 

The UNWTO and its members are committed to prioritising education, investment in tourism and sustainability of the sector. 

A number of decisions were made at the meeting.  

China, Indonesia, Japan and the Republic of Korea were nominated to represent the region on the UNWTO Executive Council.  

The council is the governing body of the UNWTO and is tasked with guiding and supervising the work of the wider organisation. The council’s decisions and recommendations are influential in shaping global tourism policies and practices. Typically, the council meets twice a year.  

The two commissions for East Asia & the Pacific and South Asia also agreed that the 36th joint meeting will be held in Cebu, the Philippines next year. Meanwhile, World Tourism Day in 2025 will be hosted in Malaysia under the theme “Tourism and Sustainable Transformation”.