UN tourism boss speaks at forum organised by SUR

Manuel Butler in Malaga on Tuesday.
Manuel Butler in Malaga on Tuesday. / Salvador Salas
  • Manuel Butler said that tourism is undergoing dramatic changes and that world market forecasts continue to grow

The head of the World Tourism Organization (WTO), run by the United Nations, was in Malaga on Tuesday to address local business leaders and politicians at a forum organised by SUR.

Manuel Butler has recently taken over at the WTO, which is based in Madrid. Prior to this, the Spaniard was head of TurEspaña, the government's promotion agency for Spanish tourism.

Butler said that "tourism is undergoing cyclical changes with a long term impact that hasn't been experienced before".

He discussed some of the challenges facing the industry at the moment, including Brexit and demonstrations against tourists in the centre of some Spanish cities.

Special attention was paid to the emerging subject of "overtourism" in historic cities and how tourism, and its challenges, was moving up the world political agenda.

The WTO chief added that figures for tourism continue to be very positive and that at no time since the 1960s has world tourism seen such a sustained period of growth. He said that in 2017 there was a 6.8% increase in tourism, twice the forecast amount, and he called for more investment in sustainability.