Boris Žgomba: UHPA is widely recognised by the international tourism community


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UHPA hosted the Second Worldwide Summit of Presidents of Travel Agencies that was held in Zagreb on November 6-8, bringing together more than 120 participants who were discussing the future of travel agencies in the period until 2020 in the light of global changes. President of the Association of Croatian Travel Agencies Boris Žgomba said that this event shows worldwide recognition of UHPA's work. Also he commented the signing of the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism which was attended by Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO, and Darko Lorencin, Croatian Minister of Tourism

The Second Worldwide Summit of Presidents of Travel Agencies Associations, organised by UHPA, was held from 6-8 November in Zagreb. The event is a continuation of last year's Summit, organised by the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies (CEAV), which was held in Cordoba (Spain). Why were Croatia and UHPA chosen to host and organise this event and what is the main goal of the Summit?

First of all, I would like to say how honoured we are to be given the opportunity, despite strong competition, to organise this important event, which is also a great acknowledgement of Croatia and Croatia's tourism industry.

Moreover, the fact that UHPA was given the opportunity to organise the 2nd Summit of Presidents of Travel Agencies Associations is also a great acknowledgement of UHPA's work, which is widely recognised by the international tourism community.

The main goal of the Summit was to give travel industry professionals and experts the opportunity to meet and discuss their opinions on global issues and to evaluate their impact on operations and the current position of travel agencies and tour operators. In addition, the Summit was not only a unique opportunity for all participants to gain insight into travel industry trends and challenges, but also a chance to share their experiences, ideas and possibilities for the future development of the tourism sector.

Furthermore, it is important to emphasize that the Summit also has a great promotional value for our destination given the fact that the visit by the presidents of other associations of travel agencies and tour operators gave us a chance to present Croatia in the best possible way and to attract new visitors from countries whose residents have never been in Croatia or have visited it in small numbers.

Over one hundred travel industry representatives were discussing the global position of travel agencies and their role in the future. What do you, as the president of UHPA and the vice-president of ECTAA, expect to change in the operations of travel agencies, especially domestic ones, over the short and long term?

The 2nd Summit was organised around three panels covering the following four topics: the freedom of travel, tourism & distribution channels, sustainable tourism, international tourism and the future of air transport.

European travel agencies, as well as the travel agencies all over the world, are facing various problems. The latest ones are the differences in legislations, visa policies and the related problems, inadequate transport connections, security problems (health and other issues), etc. These problems cannot be solved in short period of time because they entail substantial financial resources and the interaction of numerous stakeholders outside the tourism sector.

One of the positive aspects of tourism, one which all countries have in common, is the fact that travel services create new destinations and enable people to see and explore other cultures, way of life, history and gastronomy. The events such as this Summit provide a unique opportunity to open the way for new destinations and to find ways to achieve long-term goals.

What are the greatest challenges Croatian agencies have to face when entering new foreign markets? In your opinion, what are the new possibilities and chances for their successful entry and operations in a very demanding and competitive international market?

Preserved natural beauty, rich history and culture are highlighted as benefits and possibilities for further tourism development in Croatia and are what gets us on top lists of various travel magazines and websites. Even though Croatia has great potential, we lose approximately 90 % of potential visitors a year due to the lack of recognition on the world's travel market.

In order to achieve better results, the principal tourism institutions in Croatia and local tourist boards, in cooperation with travel agencies and tour operators, have launched numerous projects over the last few years aimed to increase the recognition of Croatia as a world travel destination.The important and positive thing is that all stakeholders of the tourism sector have recognised the need to brand Croatian tourism and to design and offer special and additional services which will differentiate us from the competition.

During the Summit, UHPA signed the UNWTO's Code of Ethics for Tourism. What does that means for UHPA and its members?

The UNWTO's code, i.e. the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism represents ten key principles on which the development of tourism is based. It sets the rights and obligations of all stakeholders in tourism activities. Given the size and effect of the tourism sector on the Croatian economy, I believe that the wish for a better definition of operations is a logical continuation of the development of tourism sector in Croatia.

By signing the Code, UHPA and its members show their wish for a better definition and standardization of operations within the tourism sector in Croatia, as well as with the partners from other countries. It is important to highlight that this is one of the ways of achieving the goal of standardized legislations in Europe, but also at a global level.

Why are these international conferences important for the tourism industry and do you expect actual progress when it comes to issues related to the role of travel agencies in the future?

Regardless of the technological and other advances in communication in recent years, it is undeniable that travel agencies and tour operators have an important role and that it will become even more important in certain segments. In other words, when it comes to complex travel arrangements and travel services, the role of agencies in terms of their experience and knowledge is invaluable. Moreover, travel agencies and tour operators are consolidating the offer of travel services and all technological advances of today facilitate their communication with the customers. As we already mentioned, these international conferences are extremely important because they enable travel industry experts to meet and discuss not only their experiences, ideas, but also problems which they encounter in their operations. Even though we are all part of the same industry, there are significant cultural and economic differences. In the future, we hope that we will succeed in our aim to ensure standardized legislation which would facilitate and improve our operations and cease to be an obstacle as it frequently is today. 

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