NEW YORK — The UN World Tourism Organization, also known as the UNWTO, celebrates World Tourism Day every year on September 27. This international day is meant to bring awareness to the positive economic, social and environmental impact that tourism has especially on developing countries. In order to emphasize the role that tourism plays in boosting local economies and protecting local environments, the theme for this year’s World Tourism Day was “Tourism and Community Development.”
UNWTO defines sustainable tourism as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”
Approximately nine percent of the global GDP comes from the tourist industry and one in eleven jobs around the world is involved in tourism. Due to the contribution tourism makes to the global economy, UNWTO emphasizes the positive impact that touristic activities can have on local communities. It also emphasizes the vital role that tourism plays in sustainable development efforts, especially for emerging economies. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently highlighted the impact that tourism can have on local economies.
The 2014 World Tourism Day events were held in Guadalajara, Mexico, where tourism ministers from various countries and representatives from private companies were present. Mexican president Peña Nieto emphasized that tourism accounts for eight percent of Mexico’s GDP and that seven percent of the Mexican workforce is employed in tourist industries. As the sector continues to grow, President Nieto reiterated the ways in which tourism empowers local communities, lifts individuals’ socio-economic status and help reduce gender inequalities.
Several positive elements of tourism were also identified at the conference as being essential to community development. First, tourism promotes culturally conscious and culturally sensitive development while at the same time increasing economic opportunities for locals.
Second, sustainable tourism promotes local ownership of the tourism industry and involves all aspects of society decreasing the chance that certain individuals or groups will be left out of the economics benefits reaped from the tourist industry. Third, sustainable tourism encourages locals to be proud of their local community thereby increasing social cohesion and promoting diversity, tolerance and understanding. It also helps capacity-building in local government improving the ability of those governments to take care of their communities.
Finally, cooperation between local and private actors helps develop a tourist industry that takes into account the desires and needs of all people at all levels of society. This ensures that the economic benefits produced in the tourist industry flow from the private sector to individuals in the local society. These benefits can then be used to improve local infrastructure, boost the local economy and create jobs specifically available to local populations.
The conference also emphasized that all actors involved in the tourism industry should adhere to internationally, regionally and nationally agreed-upon public tourism policies in order to see the greatest impact in community development. Therefore, the UNWTO encouraged all tourism stakeholders to adhere to its Global Code of Ethics which should be used a framework to assist sustainable development efforts carried out within the tourism sector of all economies.