THE international community today celebrates World Tourism Day with a call for people to pledge that they will #TravelEnjoyRespect in keeping with the adoption by the UN General Assembly of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
World Tourism Day is held annually on September 27 to promote the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. The observance of the event was established by the UN World Tourism Organization in 1979 and the first staging of World Tourism Day came the following year.
This year, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) is asking travelers to commit to being more responsible, with the aim of making the tourism sector a catalyst for positive change. It is counting on international travelers (over 1.2 billion in 2016) to promote sustainable tourism for development.
According to the UN, sustainable tourism is defined as tourism that considers current and future economic, social and environmental impacts. It addresses the needs of visitors, industry, host communities and the environment. Sustainable tourism makes optimal use of environmental resources, respects host communities and ensures viable, long-term economic operations so benefits are equitably distributed among stakeholders.
The UN sees sustainable tourism as a tool for development, noting that it is a “positive instrument” that can be used to fight poverty, protect the environment and improve the quality of life. It is looking at tourism to contribute to the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals it adopted in two years ago. Specifically, tourism is seen contributing to the achievement of the objectives relating to Goals 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth; 12, Responsible Consumption and Production; and 14, Life Below Water.
In his message to mark the occasion, UN WTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai called on travelers to “respect nature, respect culture and respect your host.”
According to Rifai, travelers crossing international borders will reach 1.8 billion by 2030. He described travelers as a “transformative force” that can advance the sustainable development in its five pillars: economic, social, environmental, cultural and peace; and contribute to make the world a better place.