The opening was held at the highest level. Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed a welcoming speech to delegates from around the world.
'By contributing to the development of tourism, you help strengthen humanitarian and economic ties between countries, open up new opportunities for communication and friendship between citizens of different states,' the President said.
He paid particular attention to the tourism potential of Russia and the importance of repeatedly strengthening the socio-economic impacts from tourism: tax revenues, new jobs, the development of education and entrepreneurship, and the solution of environmental and infrastructure issues.
'Over the past five years, more than 125 million foreign tourists have visited. This is the result of our consistent work on the development of the tourism industry. We will provide this sector of state support even more effectively, strengthen the competitiveness of the tourism market, create the most advanced services, and create a breakthrough technological 'digital' era,' said Vladimir Putin.
A case in point is electronic visas, which can be issued remotely, quickly and without any additional formalities.
'We are open to the exchange of interesting ideas and suggestions, we are ready and strive for mutually beneficial cooperation. You will definitely feel that here, in the Assembly, in the process of substantive dialogue, where delegates, guests and specialists will share their vision of the prospects for the Russian and global tourism industry,' Vladimir Putin addressed the participants and expressed hope that UNWTO will support Russia's application for World Tourism Day in 2022 and the opening of the International Tourism Centre under the auspices of the World Tourism Organization.
During the plenary session, Russia was elected as the chairing country of the 23rd session of the UNWTO General Assembly, the authority of which was delegated to the Head of the Federal Agency for Tourism of Russia Zarina Doguzova.
'It is a great honour for me to be the chairman of the assembly. Today, tourism in Russia is one of the priorities at the government level. Following the Programme for Tourism Industry Development, until 2035 the volume of tourism services in the country may reach $116.3 billion. The number of domestic tourists will double, and the growth of tourism services exports is expected to reach $128.6 billion. The introduction of electronic visas throughout the country from January 1, 2021, is a real breakthrough for all world tourism. We will work to eliminate various restrictions and formalities.'
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili supported the topic of tourism accessibility. According to him, only a decade ago, 77% of the world's population needed visas to travel, and now this share has dropped to about 50%.
'We hope that in 10 years there will be no visas at all. We want tourism to be accessible to all. Our main recommendation is to remove such barriers. Make tourism convenient for everyone.'
You can find more information on the official website of the 23rd session of the UNWTO General Assembly.