MADRID, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Tourism industry leaders from around the world gathered here on Wednesday to attend the 24th Session of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly. The event was moved from Morocco to Spain due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Over 1,000 participants, including 84 ministers and deputy tourism ministers and representatives from 135 countries are present at the three-day meeting, which aims to restart and lead the sustainable recovery of the sector badly hit by the pandemic.
"We are all here for the same reason, to rethink and restart tourism," UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said in his opening address. "This General Assembly is the first truly global gathering of our sector to be held since the crisis hit."
The General Assembly coincides with the detection of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which has prompted many countries to impose travel restrictions and the World Health Organization (WHO) to advise against international travel.
Pololikashvili asked governments to impose travel restrictions only when necessary, but added that "solidarity between countries has defined our joint response to a shared crisis and it is more important than ever as our colleagues in Africa deal with the new variant."
"The UNWTO pledges to leave nobody behind," he added.
The meeting began with a session dedicated to the International Code for the Protection of Tourists, which aims to strengthen passenger rights and boost traveler confidence if travel has to be canceled. The UNWTO expects this code to be presented to the United Nations General Assembly in 2022 with the aim of making it a resolution.
On Tuesday, the Executive Council of the UNWTO held its 114th session, which heard Pololikashvili's report and agreed to implement the UNWTO's General Program of Work for 2020-2021 and 2022-2023.
The participants also approved several initiatives on tourism for rural development, the Best Tourism Villages project and the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, along with a declaration on the empowerment of women in tourism.
According to the latter document, while 54 percent of the people employed in the sector are women, there is still a "glass ceiling," which makes it hard for them to reach management positions and which also means that they have been the worst affected by the pandemic in terms of employment. The declaration promises to provide an impulse towards greater equality to correct these imbalances.