We find ourselves at a crossroads in the long running pursuit of sustainable tourism. If we continue on the same path, we risk overwhelming the very streets we seek to explore. Against a backdrop of ‘tourism phobia’ witnessed in cities like Barcelona and Amsterdam, is the value of tourism undermined by the blur of the tourist gaze? Are we blinded by our appetite to travel?
At celebrations for World Tourism Day, UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai said “We become better people when we travel. Travel has become a way of life.” The challenge as we move forward into a world where nearly 2 billion people are embracing this ‘way of life’ is to ensure that we can still harness the power of travel, and tourism, to protect and conserve our natural world and the people within it — to transform our world for the better, as demanded by the UN’s Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals.
Here are seven ways Travel & Tourism is already positively transforming lives and places around the world:
1. Travel & Tourism brings economic opportunities to places other sectors can’t reach.
Many other sectors provide jobs and sustain livelihoods but tourism can harness the spirit of a community in ways that other sectors can’t. Dharavi, Mumbai’s largest slum, was already a vibrant, bustling locality but Reality Tours added opportunity and recognition to the mix. Through providing educational tours, the company has helped to break down the barriers and educate people on life inside Asia’s largest slums. It has provided an insight into the ‘real India’ that so many seek whilst simultaneously providing financial support to the community it depends on. (Watch Krishna’s story)
2. Travel & Tourism creates local networks, support, and a common purpose.
Tourism doesn’t just drive our global economy, it drives our local communities and the people within them. It can create a shared value and common purpose. In The Burren in County Clare, Ireland, through the development of an ecotourism network, likeminded people are making a difference that might not otherwise have been possible on their own. And at the same time they are connecting with each other in their rural and remote part of the world. (Watch Cathleen’s story)
3. Travel & Tourism creates livelihoods and opportunities for everyone in society.
Tourism directly employs 109 million people around the world. For those working for large companies, entrepreneurs operating in a single destination, and people delivering the tourism experience directly, the opportunities that this presents for people from all walks of life gaining employment is unparalleled. From a female tour guide in Kenya, a former turtle poacher in Mexico, and thousands of young people in China’s hospitality sector, Travel & Tourism is transforming the lives of millions of people. (Watch Evalyn’s story | Watch Huber’s story | Watch CHEI’s story)
4. Travel & Tourism is a tool for the sustainable development of a whole country.
One of the biggest challenges we face in sustainable tourism is how to bring it to scale. There are plenty of outstanding tourism companies and conservation projects but it’s rare that they are backed by an entire government or that all stakeholders are actively engaged. Botswana Tourism Organisation is an exceptional example of how sustainable development can improve and transform lives. Through focussing on high end, low impact nature-based tourism, and the many services that support it, around 60,000 jobs have been created and US$650 million contributed to Botswana’s GDP. (Watch Botswana Tourism’s story)
5. Travel & Tourism protects biodiversity.
Travel & Tourism can be a tool to protect and conserve biodiversity. Used as an economic rationale for conservation it can have a massive impact. The example of Misool in Indonesia is a case in point. The ecolodge has been the driving force behind the establishment of a significant marine reserve resulting in the declaration of the area’s waters as a shark and ray sanctuary. With marine life stimulating tourism revenues, and those tourism revenues protecting the marine life, the communities can see the benefits of allowing fish stocks to recover and thus engage actively in their protection. (Watch Misool’s story)
6. Travel & Tourism underpins community development.
Travel & Tourism can be a catalyst for community development across the board. Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya shows how investing in community programmes such as education, agribusinesses, water, health, and energy projects, as a result of tourism activity, can improve and transform the lives of people who live and work on the fringes of tourism destinations. (Watch Ol Pejeta’s story)
7. Travel & Tourism is pushing the boundaries of research.
One of the most exciting aspects of travel is that it teaches us new things, broadens our horizons, and stretches our minds. When we combine the desire to travel with the power of education it can have remarkable results. The Mapping Ocean Wealth (MOW) initiative represents a significant step forward in supporting future investment in the conservation, restoration, rehabilitation, and management of coral reefs for future enjoyment by generations to come. The initiative was driven by an honest desire to use science and research as a basis for practical decision making and impact. What started as a conceptual dialogue has now become reality with the development of an innovative economic interactive platform that assigns financial values to coral reefs. (Watch The Nature Conservancy’s story)
The economic rationale for Travel & Tourism is clear -10% of the world’s GDP depends on it. But in a world where economic success does not always translate in to inclusive and sustainable growth, the social benefits of the sector become more important.
2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and we now have a comprehensive set of guidelines through the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in which tourism is explicitly mentioned though SDG #8 — Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG #12 — Responsible Consumption and Production and SDG #14 — Life Below Water. The international community is waking up to the power of tourism as an agent of change — now it’s time for businesses, destinations, governments, and travellers to make sure we keep up the momentum.
To find out more about the transformation stories in this article or to share your own story, visit www.transformingour.world