TACLOBAN CITY- Amid the rubbles of supertyphoon Yolanda, the tourism industry of this city and the rest of the region is not dead. In fact, it is just the “beginning of a re-birth.” Thus said the secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Taleb Rifai, who visited this city, considered the ground zero of Yolanda, last May 17.  “I have been all over the world. I’ve seen much. I see so many places from America to Europe to Asia to Africa, but I will tell you, this was the devastated episode, but one of the most bright episode of courage, “Rifai said in his speech before provincial and tourism officials held at the Governor’s Hall of the provincial capitol building. “I was struck by the amount of devastation but at the same time, at the same moment, what came to my mind was how courageous these people are. You are still smiling. It is wonderful. It is beautiful,” Rifai said. Amid the scale of destruction left by Yolanda, Rifai said he “see exactly the other way around.” “It is the beginning of the rebirth, the future of development,” Rifai said on what to expect from the impact of the storm. Rifai added that the opportunities after the typhoon include the “the opportunity to learn about mistakes.” “Now that we are reflecting on it, we can do it right. Second, we have learned how important this (tourism) industry. We have seen the industry lost so much. We have seen the loopholes that existed during this challenge. Do it better, make sure that the tourism and travel industry will respond to that,” Rifai said. Asked on the percentage of tourism businesses that prepared against climate change, Rifai maintained “it is difficult to put it on number, to quantify this.” “But we can be sure that every day, we have more businesses committing themselves not only because the business is correct but because the consumers, the travelers in this world are demanding that. The travelers today would like to go to the place where they feel good with what they are doing. They do not go to a place that doesn’t respect the environment.” Rifai said that they are mobilizing to inject more funds in the affected areas to recover its tourism potentials. “We have been injecting (funds), and now we are establishing and working on some technical assistance.” “Don’t give up. Because if you will do, you will send wrong message to the world. Tell the world you are ready,”came Rifai’s appeal, adding tourism “is very stubborn” kind of industry, emphasizing on over a billion tourists travelling around the world. Karina Rosa Tiopes, regional director of the Department of Tourism, expressed her gratitude for the visit of Rifai saying that this will send a message to the world’s travelers that Tacloban and the rest of the region remains to be a safe haven for them and we have much to offer to them. (RONALD O. REYES)