MANILA-- The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General on Wednesday wanted to send "a clear message" to world about the Philippines and Filipinos.
"We're here to send a clear, strong message to the world: Come to the Philippines," Rifai said during his speech in the opening ceremony of the 6th UNWTO International Conference on Tourism Statistics at the Resorts World Manila.
The conference, which will run from June 21 to 23, serves as a venue to discuss policy initiatives on the importance of developing a statistical framework to measure sustainable tourism worldwide.
In his speech, Rifai, who has been to the Philippines around three times, emphasized how travel and tourism broke down stereotypes and misconceptions about certain countries and its people.
"Travel and tourism today can break down stereotypes and misconceptions, bring people together. All it takes it to come here to see. We are here to tell the world 'come to Manila, come to the Philippines'. Anybody that tries to present any other versions of the story should come see it through our eyes," Rifai said stressing how fake news had made it more difficult for people to know the truth behind the stories reported about certain countries.
"We don't want to say (the Philippines is) safe because it is. We're not in the habit of repeating what is obvious. Just come and see us meeting here in hundreds and sending the message to the world that the Philippines is a wonderful place to be in. Come here and feel good," he added.
Rifai, meanwhile, said praised Filipinos for being the country's "asset".
"The best thing about the Philippines is the Filipinos. You're the wonderful asset of this country. Be proud of it, rise up and say to the world, we are Filipinos. Because the world is lucky to have you," Rifai said addressing all Filipinos.
"You haven't lived, (if) you haven't experienced the Philippines. You haven't finished your journey of life. You cannot go about your journey of life if you don't visit this beautiful country once in a lifetime at least," he added.
The UNWTO chief, meanwhile, stressed that there were still several challenges facing the international tourism industry -- particularly its contribution to sustainability
"We have to step up tourism's contribution to sustainability in many ways. For our sector to be relevant it must be relevant to other sectors, to other aspects so life. We must move forward for a truly green economy where growth and environment are decoupled from each other," Rifai said.
To do this, Rifai said that it is necessary to measure the impact of tourism to the environment to be able to properly manage them.
"If we cannot measure, we cannot manage. We need to measure accurately and regularly. We need to measure our impact if we have any hope of reducing carbon emission We have to curb the negative impact of the society," he added.
Philippine Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, for her part, expressed keenness in turning tourism into an environmentally-responsible industry.
Around nine foreign ministers and other officials were present during the UNWTO conference opening ceremonies including ministers from Thailand, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Seychelles, Indonesia, Fiji, South Africa, Korea, China, Spain.
Source: Philippines News Agency