India against grading of tourism destinations

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New Delhi, Oct 20 : Union Minister for Tourism and Culture Ambika Soni chaired the 84th session of the Executive Council of United Nations World Tourism Organization which was recently held in Madrid, Spain in her capacity as the chairperson of the Executive Council.

One of the main agenda items taken up during the meeting pertained to cooperation between Centre of Excellence for Destinations (CED) and United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

CED currently operates in Montreal, Canada and was set up to provide guidance to tourism destinations.

The meeting agreed to India's proposal of not allowing certification, grading or ranking of tourist destinations by CED with which UNWTO had entered into a MoU.

India expressed its concerns about CED assuming the role of a certification agency, which would lead to standardizing of cultures, heritage and biodiversity of nations and could seriously undermine the concept of diversity that drives tourism across the world.

India was strongly supported in its stand by the members of the Working Group set up by UNWTO to examine the by laws and procedures for running the CED.

Costa Rica, Brazil, France, Iran, Ghana, Spain besides India were members of the Working Group which was constituted by a resolution adopted at the last meeting of the Executive Council held in Jeju, Korea in June 2008 which was also chaired by Soni.

CED would now extend technical assistance to destinations in developing countries to achieve excellence and attract more tourists. In addition, developing countries could ask UNWTO's support for securing financial and technical assistance.

The meeting reiterated its commitment to the resolution on 'Climate Change and Tourism' adopted by the UNWTO General Assembly at its 17th Session held at Cartagena de Indias, Colombia emphasizing that there should not be any discrimination against developing countries.

The meeting agreed to take consensus based measures to implement the resolution within the framework of the UNFCCC.

Soni in her address highlighted the need for pursuing tourism growth in consistence with environmentally sustainable principles and practices. She informed about the initiatives taken by India as envisaged in the 'National Action Plan on Climate Change' to meet the challenges of climate change.

UNWTO's Executive Council agreed to create a Resilience Committee to support its Members with accurate economic analysis and response mechanisms to combat challenges arising out of global uncertainties due to financial crisis.

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