When the so-called leisure industry grows exponentially around the world, 2017 brings the news, declared by the United Nations (UN) as International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
Roberto F. Campos
The UN General Assembly approved this nomination as recognition of the importance of international tourism, and in particular, its contribution to the economy and greater understanding of the countries involved.
Its aim is to achieve a greater awareness of the wealth of different civilisations’ heritages and greater appreciation of the inherent values of diverse cultures, which contribute to the strengthening of world peace.
Such appreciation puts the leisure industry above scourges such as wars, many of which arise due to economic and material interest, but also because of misunderstandings between different cultures.
This announcement serves as a unique opportunity to increase the tourism sector’s contribution to the three pillars of sustainability (economic, social and environmental), just as the official UN document indicates.
The Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai is convinced that these aims are possible, and encourages such initiatives.
The decision goes hand in hand with the acknowledgement made by world leaders at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which, if well planned and managed, can contribute to creating more jobs and commercial opportunities.
A good year
The most recent report of the UNWTO Barometer showed that world tourism increased by four percent from January to September 2016, confirming the upward spiral of the travel industry. The Barometer added that during the same period in 2015, the demand for international tourism grew at a more moderate rate, but nonetheless we are talking about numbers in their millions.
A total of 965 million tourists travelled to international destinations from January to September 2016, which is 34 million more than during the same period in 2015.
In Europe, the number of international arrivals rose by two percent in the same period covered by the report, while there was solid growth seen in most destinations.
Growth of two percent in important destinations such as Spain, Hungary, Portugal and Ireland was offset by declines in France, Belgium and Turkey.
Asia and the Pacific region led the boost until last September, with an increase of nine percent in foreign arrivals, while in America there was an increase of four percent.
In Africa, sub-Saharan destinations bounced back throughout the year, while the north of the continent saw a decline in the third trimester. The arrival of international travellers to the Middle East showed a drop of six percent, though the results varied between destinations at the regional level.
Prospects for the last trimester of 2016 are optimistic, with UNWTO specialists expressing their confidence in the continued development of the flow, mostly in Africa, America, Asia and the Pacific region.
Therefore, the decision to assign 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development comes at an important time, as the international community sets its sights on the new 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved by the UN General Assembly.
Tourism features in three of the goals’ aims. Goal 8 is related to promoting sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth.
Furthermore, it takes into account full and productive employment and decent jobs for all. Goal 12 deals with sustainable consumption and production.
Goal 14 is linked to the conservation and usage of oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
In terms of increase, Rifai himself believes that 46% of all tourist movement tends to take place in the first half of the year.
He also announced that predictions are also positive for the second semester, putting 2016 in a good position, with healthy prospects for the New Year.
Certain destinations stand out, with China holding first place as leading market in the world, with a rise of 20%, followed by the U.S. with eight percent.
Other good outcomes were seen in Spain, where tourist trips increased by 20%, in Norway by 11%, and in Australia by 10%. (PL)
Photos: Pixabay – (Translated by Lucy Daghorn)