The current COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world “the importance of working together,” Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Zurab Pololikashvili has said.

“This is not only vital for addressing the current crisis, but also essential if we are to achieve the ambitious aims of the Sustainable Development Goals. Countries that choose to ‘go it alone’ risk undermining the progress we have been making,” Pololikashvili told in an interview to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the UN this year and World Tourism Day on Sept. 27.

Pololikashvili said the 75th anniversary of the UN celebrates how multilateralism has helped promote the cause of peace throughout the world.

“We saw an example of this multilateralism in last week’s UNWTO 112th Executive Council in Tbilisi, Georgia. We were able to gather 170 delegates from 24 countries, who all agreed to support the Tbilisi Declaration with its commitment to making international travel safe again,” he said.

Themed “Tourism and Rural Development,” this year’s World Tourism Day comes at a critical moment, as countries worldwide look to tourism to drive economic recovery, including in rural communities where the sector is a leading employer and economic pillar, he said.

“Tourism also highlights how interconnected we are. No country can just ‘take care of its own business’ now, and we all benefit when we work together,” he added.

“Indeed, global tourism has never been more united than it is now, with both the public and private sectors working together to address a shared and unprecedented challenge,” he said.

“China is a tourism powerhouse and an active player in tourism’s global governance, including as a key member of the UNWTO Global Tourism Crisis Committee which we set up back in March to guide a united response to the COVID-19 crisis,” he continued.

Pololikashvili highlighted that China is playing an important role in the UNWTO ever since it joined the organization in 1983.

Noting that China has been a strong supporter of several key development projects such as the Belt & Road Initiative, Pololikashvili said the UNWTO has also

“jumped on this initiative” to “revive the ancient routes as a tourism concept”

He said China’s role in promoting tourism for sustainable development is “commendable.”

“China has successfully embraced innovation and the digital transformation of the tourism sector. During my last trip to Guangzhou in 2019, I was very impressed with how technology shapes the development of tourism at every level,” he said.

“Also, as part of its efforts to alleviate poverty, particularly in rural areas, China has seized the capacity of tourism to create opportunities and turned it into a generator of decent jobs for millions,” he added.