WTO head vacations here, visits President Abinader

President Luis Abinader and Tourism Minister David Collado met with Zurab Pololikashvili, the World Tourism Organization secretary-general, at the Presidential Palace on 17 February 2021. Pololikashvili took time off his holidays with his family in Punta Cana for the Presidential Palace meeting. His young son, Nikoloz, accompanied him to meet the Dominican President.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, Pololikashvili praised President Abinader and his team for their ideas to promote tourism recovery and attract more tourists and investments. He said the Dominican Republic is an example of country tourism management in a pandemic for the achieved balance between health and the economy. He said the Dominican government has some of the best ideas to lead tourism recovery. “We are aligned to bring more tourists,” he said. He said the WTO would help attract more investors for tourism developments in the country.

Pololikashvili had praise for the beauty and hospitality of the country. “There is no better place to invest than this paradise. A country with legal security, with a government motivated to make interesting, creative, modern and sustainable projects,” remarked Pololikashvili.

Pololikashvili said the family chose to visit attracted by the history, tourism facilities, and safety in the pandemic. This was the first time the family had vacationed after the start of the pandemic. “We have seen with our own eyes that this is a safe country, with all the global protocols in place that are so necessary in these strange and difficult times,” he said. He also said the family chose to vacation here “to relax and for its beauty and the hospitality that we have felt from the first minute we arrived to Punta Cana.”

Pololikashvili said that his trip proves that one can travel in a responsible way. “We have come with our children to enjoy Punta Cana with its beauty and the protocols that make us feel safer than when going to a supermarket at home. To not travel is not the solution to avoid catching the disease,” he remarked.

The UNWTO representative expressed that world tourism could recover in three or four years, to the levels of 2015 and 2016. Nevertheless, he said this will depend on many factors, including travel barriers of source countries. Still, he clarified that this depends on “many factors”, including the travel barriers of countries like the United States, China and the United Kingdom.

Tourism Minister Collado commented: “The fact that the secretary-general of the World Tourism Organization has chosen this destination is a further endorsement that we are doing a good job that is creating international confidence,” he said.

Among the DR’s measures to keep jobs in tourism and restore the visits, Collado mentioned the coordination role of the tourism cabinet that is presided by President Luis Abinader himself. He highlighted the free travel insurance for foreign tourism, the focus on domestic travel, and the facilities for free antigen testing at hotels for US travelers.

Furthermore, he spoke of the Covid-19 protocols that enable tourists to enjoy their vacations while staying safe. The government has facilitated that tourists be tested at the hotels and resorts to comply with the test requirement for their return to their countries.

Collado said that more than 100,000 tourists arrived in January, and a similar amount is expected for this month. “We have been able to stop the decline and tourism has been rising steadily over the last few weeks,” he said.

Collado acknowledged that the pandemic has hit the tourism industry hard, and recognizes that it is “a social crisis with a human face,” since some 500,000 Dominicans depend on the sector for their own livelihood. He is confident the industry will recover and be stronger than before.

In January 2021, the Executive Committee of the WTO reelected Pololikashvili was re-for a second four-year term as Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). Pololikashvili is from Georgia, a former republic of the Soviet Union.

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17 February 2021