First Summit of the Americas:



The members States of the OAS view tourism as important to their economies and valuable to the promotion of understanding among the people of the Americas. For these reasons, Governments, States and the OAS have taken important steps to increase tourist flows and improve the tourism industry since the Miami Summit in 1994. A special unit on tourism, a plan of action with 32 initiatives on tourism, and the Inter-American Program for the Sustainable Development of Tourism are the main plans that aim at developing the economy through tourist exchange. Other Hemispheric efforts such as the 1996 meeting of the Inter-Sectoral Unit for Tourism of the OAS, the Seventeenth Inter-American Tourism Congress in 1997, and annual efforts of each member State. Between 1994 and 1997, revenue from international tourism in the Americas increased from $95.4 billion to $119.8 billion, and the number of tourists entering each of the major regions of the Hemisphere rose substantially. It is these types of efforts that will help sustain and develop this economic activity, the largest in the world.

Initiatives Undertaken to Stimulate Tourism

Leaders understand that tourism is the world's largest industry and represents the largest peace-time movement of peoples in the history of humankind. They also recognize that tourism is an important driving force in economic development and growth, and that the Western Hemisphere is the second largest tourism-revenue-earning region in the world. This is why they have undertaken several initiatives to support the industry. One example is Declaration AG/DEC. 8 (XXV-O/95), in which the General Assembly decided to support and promote OAS technical cooperation on matters related to tourism, the development of which is of special interest to the states of the region, particularly those of the Caribbean. Another is the Declaration of the Summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) on Trade, Tourism, and Transportation, held from August 14 to 18, 1995, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Here, Heads of State and Government affirmed that the tourism industry constitutes the major vehicle of development for many of the small states of the Caribbean region and that it is not only the single economic activity common to all ACS States but also a priority economic sector for all the states concerned. In addition, the Declaration of Montelimar II and the Regional Program of Action for Tourism Development, in which the Central American presidents undertook to consolidate and recognize the tourism sector as a strategic and priority economic activity for sustainable development in Central America, develop the industry also.

Inter-Sectoral Unit for Tourism

Since 1975, key mandates have been approved that would help member states develop their tourism sectors. In its 1996 proposal for the creation of an Inter-Sectoral Unit for Tourism, the OAS reassessed the importance of the tourism industry and laid the foundation for improved and deepened OAS involvement in this sector. The Secretary General’s proposal (1) highlighted why the tourism industry is the most important tool for continued regional and national economic growth (2) responded to the priority placed on it by the Member States and (3) recommended the establishment of a specialized unit within the General Secretariat of the OAS (the Inter-Sectoral Unit for Tourism) to address issues and fill in gaps that Inter-American Travel Congress could not respond to adequately. On June 28, 1996, the Secretary General of the OAS followed through with his proposal and created the Unit. It is responsible for matters directly related to Tourism and its development in the Hemisphere. The functions of the Inter-Sectoral Unit for Tourism are to:

  • Provide support to the Inter-American Travel Congress forum for formulating hemispheric tourism policy;

  • provide support in the area of Sustainable and Integral Tourism Development;

  • provide support to other sectors of the General Secretariat engaged in activities related to sustainable and integral tourism development;

  • provide support to hemispheric and subregional conferences, workshops and seminars;

  • to formulate, evaluate, and undertake execution of selective technical cooperation projects and promote public/private sector cooperation;

  • to facilitate the exchange of information related to sustainable and integral tourism development in the region;

  • conduct research and analysis of tourism issues;

  • and promote cooperation with international, regional and subregional tourism organizations.


The Meeting of Heads of State and Government of Central América and Mexico (Tuxtula II)


In San José, Costa Rica on February 16, 1996, eight countries from Central America and Mexico committed to advancing together and forming a unique partnership resolved to "highlight the importance of tourism, infrastructure and transportation sectors in their countries' economies and in the development and strengthening of economic ties".

Eighth Plenary Session Support for Tourism Initiative (June 7, 1996)

Bearing in mind that the General Assembly adopted the sustainable development of tourism as one of the cooperation priorities of the OAS and of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development, among other things, leaders resolved to:

  1. To support the proposal presented by the Secretary General to establish an Inter-Sectoral Unit for Tourism.
  2. To call upon the Permanent Executive Committee of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development to undertake the necessary measures to support, with the assistance of the General Secretariat, the Inter-American Travel Congress in the preparation of a plan of action for integral and sustainable tourism development in the Hemisphere.
  3. To request the General Secretariat to report on the implementation of this resolution to the General Assembly at its twenty-seventh regular session.


Inter-American Program for the Sustainable Development of Tourism:

Tourism became a priority area for the Permanent Executive Committee of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development at the OAS General Assembly in Lima, 1997. As a result, an Inter-American Program for Tourism was drafted which consists of policies, projects and activities directed toward the following objectives:

  • To offer a hemispheric forum for the promotion of dialogue and for the coordination of tourism policies;
  • To promote the exchange of information and experiences in the area of tourism;
  • To strengthen cooperation among tourism institutions operating in the hemisphere;
  • To promote better relations between the private sector and OAS member states;
  • To improve technical capabilities of the industry;
  • To insure the effective participation of the community in the implementation of programs.

Uruguay took the lead in developing projects that would implement these ideas. The Regional Tourism Statistics Program and the Inter-American Technical Meeting on the Effects of Free Trade Agreements on Tourism are both good examples. Uruguay has actively sought to include bilateral tourism cooperation agreements and implemented tourism projects in a number of fora.

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