Press Release

The tourism sector highlights the potential of urban tourism and the need to move toward more sustainable practices

PR No.: 
PR 17060
10 May 17

With the aim of exchanging experiences in urban tourism management, tourism ministers and representatives from throughout the world met in Madrid on 10 May. The event was organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Spanish Ministry of Energy, Tourism and the Digital Agenda, and the City Council of Madrid. 

The gathering was held as part of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development but also coincided with the meeting being held on that date in Madrid by the UNWTO Executive Council.

Luis Cueto, Coordinator of the City Council of Madrid; Matilde Asían, Secretary of State for Tourism; David Scowsill, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC); and Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of UNWTO, opened the session.

Luis Cueto, Coordinator of the Madrid City Council: “The impact of tourism relates to employment and diversification, and it is important to consider its returns for the societies of tourist destinations.”

The Secretary of State for Tourism, Matilde Asían, emphasized that sustainability, alongside accessibility, technology and innovation, represents one of the pillars of Spanish tourism policy, in line with the priorities established by UNWTO. Asían added that “the Ministry of Energy, Tourism and the Digital Agenda works to ensure that the wealth and employment generated by tourism are distributed throughout Spanish territory and during all seasons of the year, by promoting diversification and product innovation.”

David Scowsill, President and CEO of WWTC: “In 2008, 50% of the population was living in cities and almost half of all Travels are related to tourism; prioritizing the needs of tourists is therefore essential in urban planning. Part of the answers for the future challenges is the sharing economy that represents a huge opportunity for urban tourism.”

Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of UNWTO: “Tourism is a transformative force that can change the world, and the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for development represents a unique opportunity to enhance strategies to strengthen the sector. A city is a magnet of attraction and the relationship between cities and tourism is of high importance”.

Tourism has become one of the most effective engines of economic activity, social life and geography in many cities, owing above all to the processes of urbanization. But it also presents challenges that need to be addressed, including how to manage tourism growth sustainably, so as not to diminish its potential.

Consistent with that theme, the discussions addressed how urban tourism relates to the five areas being highlighted by the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development: (1) inclusive and sustainable economic growth; (2) social inclusion, employment and poverty reduction; (3) energy efficiency, environmental protection and climate change; (4) cultural values, diversity and heritage; and (5) mutual understanding, peace and security.

Roundtable Moderator: Mr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, UNWTO

Speakers: Ms. Tokozile Xasa, Minister of Tourism, South Africa; Mr. Pongpanu Svetarundra, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Thailand; Mr. D. Francisco Manuel de la Torre Prados, Mayor of Málaga, Spain; Mr. D. Luis Cueto, General Coordinator, Madrid City Council, Spain; Mr. Haitham Mattar, Director General, Tourism Development Authority of Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates; Mr. Siphiwe Ngwenya, Director General, Tourism Authority of Gauteng, South Africa; Ms. Helena Egan, Director for Industry Relations, Tripadvisor, United States of America; Mr. D. José María Ezquiaga, Director, College of Architects of Madrid, Spain; Mr. D. Javier Fernández Andrino, Director of International Marketing and Luxury Market Strategy, El Corte Inglés, Spain; Mr. D. Raúl Jiménez, Founder and CEO, Minube, Spain; Mr. Svend Leirvaag, Vice President of Industry Affairs, Amadeus IT Group, Spain; Ms. Eva Ruiz, Director of Marketing, MasterCard España.

Additional information:

Webpage of the event

UNWTO City Tourism Network

Photos of the Event

International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development


UNWTO Media Officer Rut Gomez Sobrino

Tel: (+34) 91 567 81 60 /

UNWTO Communications & Publications Programme

Tel: (+34) 91 567 8100 / Fax: +34 91 567 8218 /