World Tourism Day

September 27, 2017 was the International Tourism Day in the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The date, celebrated since 1980 to commemorate the entry into force of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) statute, was officially celebrated in Qatar and replicated around the world as an open invitation to reflect and to become aware of the main achievements and challenges of the sector.

As the UNWTO indicates, tourism has grown significantly in the last decades, from 25 million in 1950 to 278 million in 1980, 674 million in 2000 and 1186 million in 2015, with the prospect of reaching 1800 million people in 2030.

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As a result, the sector now accounts for 10% of global GDP and 7% of world exports. It is the third largest source of foreign exchange and generates 1 in 11 jobs worldwide. Tourism is very important for the world economy, especially for developing countries that are seeking to leverage on this sector to strengthen their economies.

People travel more, reach more destinations and the impacts of tourism are increasingly spread to more sectors. This leads us to ask ourselves, can tourism contribute to making a better world? Can I make the world better? The answer fortunately is yes.

Tourism for sustainable development

It is necessary to say that tourism has always been a driving force for growth. However, in the last decades it has started to be considered as an integral practice that affects the three dimensions of development (economic, environmental and social) and that has the potential to generate economic opportunities, support the conservation of cultural heritage and translate into profitable experiences for all the agents involved on it.

Today, for example, it is possible to affirm that tourism contributes to the direct and indirect reach of the 17 Sustainable Development Objectives (ODS), a proposal of the Government of Colombia in 2011 that was finally received on September 25th 2015 by the General Assembly, which adopts measurable and quantifiable targets that will guide development policies over the next 15 years.

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The achievements of 2017

Following this line, UNWTO wanted to take advantage of this 2017 to highlight the contributions and challenges of tourism in five key areas: sustainable economic growth, social inclusion and decent employment, efficient use of resources, protection of diversity and heritage and mutual understanding, peace and safety.

Within this framework, the “Travel, enjoy, respect” campaign has been launched, and it invites us to realize that travelers are agents of change and our behaviors can make each and every destination as well as the planet itself be a better place.

Also it is worth to mention that last September, the twenty-second meeting of the UNWTO General Assembly took place in China. The Assembly adopted the Chengdu Declaration, which urged us to formulate “tourism policies that amplify the positive and multiplying effects of tourism on the people, the planet and the prosperity “.

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The Assembly concluded with the approval of the first Convention on Ethical Tourism, a historical document that embraces the voluntary Global Code of Ethics for Tourism adopted in 1999. This Convention is a real achievement because at first time defines the responsibilities of governments, local communities and travelers with regard to sustainable tourism development.

As we can see, there are many reasons for optimism and many motives to ensure that sustainable tourism and every traveler and operator reading this article can make the world better.