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Visionary Jules Verne ?hosts' UN tourism day

Thursday, September 29th 2005 - 21:00 UTC
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From Madeira to Vladivostok and Latvia to Argentina, festivals, exhibitions and concerts marked United Nations World Tourism Day September 27 with a tip of the hat to the great French visionary and writer Jules Verne and the whimsical prospect of space as humankind's final tourist frontier.

"Transport has always been the lifeblood of the travel industry, and what better time to celebrate this vital relationship than in the year that marks the centenary of the death of one of the world's great authors and travel visionaries," UN World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli.

The author, who took his readers Around the World in 80 Days, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, on a Journey to the Centre of the Earth and From the Earth to the Moon, is at the centre of this year's celebrations, whose theme is ?Travel and Transport: From the Imagination of Jules Verne to 21st Century Reality.'

"Perhaps it is no coincidence that the two transport inventions that are now recognized as the main instigators of modern tourism, the car and the airplane, both made their appearance on the world stage shortly before Verne's death," Mr. Frangialli said in his official message.

"Today more and more people can afford to travel. In 1950 it was 20 million, last year 760 million, and by 2020 it is expected that the number of international travellers will exceed 1.6 billion a year.

"How much further can we go? What are the final frontiers in this quest for travel? Will humankind only be satisfied when journeys into space become readily available and affordable?" he added.

Organized by the WTO, a UN specialized agency based in Madrid, Spain, WTD is an international day meant to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values.

Most WTO Member States, non-members, regions, local communities and schools are organizing events while many museums and theatres will open their doors free of charge.

This year's host country is Qatar, the first WTO member from the Middle East to play this role. Celebrations include Qatar's first national tourism conference.

World Tourism Day (WTD) is celebrated worldwide every 27 September, a date that was chosen to coincide with an important milestone in world tourism, the anniversary of the adoption of the WTO Statutes on 27 September 1970.

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