NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar (eTN) - Ahead of next week’s UNWTO/UNESCO Tourism and Culture conference to be held in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Taleb Rifai, the secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, made a special appearance in the capital city of Myanmar on Monday night to address the delegates of this year’s edition of the ASEAN Tourism Forum.
Mr. Rifai spoke at the opening ceremony of ATF 2015, which is being held for the first time in Myanmar, and he had nothing but praises for Myanmar’s travel and tourism industry.
“Your presence here this evening is a very well received message,” Mr. Rifai told Myanmar’s President Thein Sein. “It is a message that we appreciate, understand, recognize and respect. Thank you for being with us this evening.”
Further, Mr. Rifai told the Myanmar president: “We are truly honored by your presence today. It is a strong and clear affirmation of your government’s support of the tourism sector, especially in this significant chapter in Myanmar’s history. Many of us have been here for less than 48 hours, most of us are here for the first time. Not me. I was here three years ago. I could testify that what has happened in the last three years is remarkable. It is very impressive. It is not only the spirit of the change and the openness that this country has acquired, it is the self-confidence that is associated with this change. It is change that is balanced, a change that comes with self-identity and confidence. Congratulations! You are an example for the world to look at.”
The theme of this year’s ASEAN Tourism Forum has the words peace, prosperity and partnership. For the UNWTO secretary general, these words “cannot find a better fitting place than Myanmar.” He said, “Myanmar is rapidly emerging as a destination in Southeast Asia, capturing the imagination of visitors from around the world.”
The UNWTO secretary general backed President Thein Sein’s tourism figures for this year’s ASEAN Tourism Forum host country. Mr. Rifai said: “I will confirm that in 2014, [Myanmar saw] over 3 million international visitors. At an average, increased rate that continuous to be very impressive. Most importantly, the tourism industry contributed US3 billion in foreign earnings, creating better future for many people in Myanmar.”
Mr. Rifai also said that the most important tourism feature of Myanmar are its people. “The remarkable people of Myanmar. The people are the best asset of this destination.”
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