Slovenia's Lake Bled draws tourists.. and tourism decision makers

When officials of the World Tourism Organisation get together, they tend to do it in a place most tourists would want to visit. Such a place is Lake Bled in Slovenia with its sparkling lake, castle and surrounding mountains. Members of the Regional Commission of the World Tourims Organisation met there to discuss the stiff competition Europe faces from other tourist destinations.

UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli stressed the role of tourism in Europe:

"Tourism in Europe has become an important branch of the economy. If we look at the estimates of the European Commission, it will be 5 to 5.5% of the total GDP of the EU. Of course, it's much more in some countries. The headquarters of my organization is in Spain; in Spain it represents 11 to 12% of the GDP of the country."

The more than 100 participants focussed on how to modernize traditional tourist offerings and access new markets. They also debated new technological advances and how they could be applied.

But the European members are also keenly aware that cheaper destinations abroad are mounting an ever growing challenge to Europe.

Frangialli: "Europe suffers from a problem of competitiveness. Labor costs, social costs, are heavy in Europe, compared to what they are in some other destinations, especially in Asia pacific. So the problems you can see with globalisation, that you find in world trade, also apply to tourism."

The UNWTO is the leading international tourist organisation and became a special UN agency in 2004.