Harnessing power of 1bn tourists for a sustainable future

Posted: November 18, 2014 in travel & tourism

unwtoA new international programme that aims to catalyze a shift to more sustainable tourism over the next decade was launched at the just-concluded World Travel Market in London.

The Sustainable Tourism Programme of the Ten-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP) will be led by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) of the United Nations and the Governments of France, the Kingdom of Morocco and the Republic of Korea, with the support of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which hosts the 10YFP Secretariat.

Tourism is today one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world. It contributes 9 per cent to global GDP, accounts for one in 11 jobs worldwide, and for 6 per cent of global exports. By 2030, UNWTO forecasts that there will be 1.8 billion international tourism arrivals annually.

If not sustainably managed however, tourism can deplete natural resources leading to water shortages, loss of biodiversity, land degradation and contribute to climate change and pollution, among other impacts. Tourism’s contribution to global warming is estimated at 5 per cent of global CO2 emissions.

UNEP’s 2011 Green Economy Report reveals that under a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario, projected tourism growth rates to 2050 will result in increases in energy consumption by 154 per cent, greenhouse gas emissions by 131 per cent, water consumption by 152 per cent, and solid waste disposal by 251 per cent.

“As tourism continues to grow, so too will the pressures on the environment and wildlife. Without proper management and protection, as well as investments in greening the sector, ecosystems and thousands of magnificent species will suffer,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Tourism has been identified by UNEP as one of the ten economic sectors best able to contribute to the transition to a sustainable and inclusive green economy. This important initiative is about steering the industry onto a truly sustainable path — one that echoes to the challenge of our time: namely the fostering of a global Green Economy that thrives on the interest, rather than the capital, of our economically important nature-based assets.” he added.

UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said, “As the leading organization for tourism, the World Tourism Organization seeks to maximize tourism’s contribution to development while minimizing its negative impacts. UNWTO is pleased to be at the helm of such an important initiative and to be collaborating with governments and institutions to implement the 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme.”

For example, in the Galapagos Islands and Palau, visitors pay an entry tax to protected areas, which are sometimes referred to as ‘green fees’. The revenues generated from these fees – which in Palau’s case is US$1.3 million annually since 2009 – are used to support conservation and sustainable human development.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Tourism Trends and Policies 2012, reports that, as the importance of the tourism sector continues to grow in OECD countries, the greatest challenge to achieving sustainable tourism is horizontal and vertical policy coordination.

Addressing these challenges is the mandate of the 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme as it strives to achieve major shifts in tourism policies and stimulate greater sustainability within the tourism supply chain. A collaborative initiative, the programme aims to improve resource efficiency, management effectiveness, and the use of new technologies to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns in this key sector.

As the most visited tourism destination in the world, France highly values the preservation of its rich culture and natural heritage. This is fundamental to maintain the quality of a destination which receives 85 million tourists a year.

Building on its support to sustainable tourism, as former Chair of the International Task Force on Sustainable Tourism Development, and former Chair of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism, France will pursue its commitment by co-leading this programme. France’s experience in this regard will be of benefit to the 10YFP and partners in this important programme.

Dr Lahcen Haddad, Minister of Tourism for the Kingdom of Morocco, emphasises that the aim of Morocco’s new Vision 2020 is to make the country one of the world’s top 20 tourism destinations, making it a model of sustainable tourism development in the Mediterranean.

“This ambitious strategy aims to capitalize on and preserve our natural and cultural advantages so that their exploitation yields the most sustainable social and economic benefits for all stakeholders,” said Minister Haddad.

“By taking this proactive role, Morocco seeks to establish itself as a leading sustainable tourism destination in the Mediterranean. Morocco is committed to the 10YFP and has been since our active participation in the work of the International Task Force and its successor, the ‘Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism”.

Morocco served as the Chair of this Partnership since 2013 and is delighted to be a co-lead of the 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme.”

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