Opening Ceremony of AITF- 2018

Baku, Azerbaijan


Minister Garayev,

It’s an honour and a pleasure to be here with you today.

Thank you for your hospitality all and thank you also for your great leadership.

A leadership recognized by all your fellow Ministers around the world.  


Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to greet you as Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, the United Nations Specialized Agency for Tourism.

In 2017 Azerbaijan saw international tourist arrivals grow by an impressive 20% (almost 3 million).

This enormous growth is the result of supportive policies, government commitment and business leadership.

I congratulate all stakeholders in the country for this success, which is far above the global average growth for 2017 of 7%.


Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to see AITF is attracting more and more foreign exhibitors, a sign of greater international interest in partnering with the region.

As a sector, we have many challenges ahead of us that we can only solve together.

We need to give more opportunities to women and young people, create a more inclusive society and make all people part of our future – leaving no one behind.

We need to decouple tourism growth from resource use, and place climate change at the heart of our agenda.

We need to use the power of technology to make tourism smarter, more competitive and more responsible.

And we need to make tourism a leading sector in achieving our common goals – the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Adapting our sector to these challenges, as well as to safety and security challenges, and to constant market changes, should be priorities in our common action.


Ladies and gentlemen,

I propose that we as a sector stand together to address the following priorities:

1. Education and Job creation

2. Innovation and technology

3. Safety and Security; and

4. Sustainability and Climate Change


To do so we need to:

1. Embrace a digital tourism sector

2. Adapt to new business models

3. Sustainably manage tourism growth

4. Invest in education and skills development


UNWTO is ready to support and work with you to make this happen.

Together we can translate tourism growth into more investment, more jobs and better livelihoods.

Together we can make tourism a sector that protects our environment, our people and our rich cultures like those we see here in Baku.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Baku is a wonderful city that is developing into a cultural and tourism hub for the region.

If Baku is selected for the World EXPO 2025, I am sure this city will be ready and able to open up to the world.

It is definitely time for the world to see more of Baku and Azerbaijan.

To quote the travel photographer Reza:

“Baku is like an old forgotten book that you discover in your grandmother's attic. Once you've wiped off the dust and delved into its pages, you stand amazed at its treasures.”

I hope you can enjoy this amazing city and I look forward to us working together for a more competitive and responsible tourism sector.

Thank you.