Of all the marked international days – this must be one of our favorites! World Tourism day is a day of celebration. But it’s also a day of reflecting and deciding to do better. So today, we focus on the power of tourism to be a force for good. To foster inclusion, treat nature well, and promote cultural understanding.
The theme of World Tourism Day 2022 is: Rethinking Tourism. This year especially recognizes that the tourism industry cannot return to the old working methods. UNWTO calls on all tourism stakeholders to pause, reflect and rethink. Where is tourism going? What can we do better? Where do we want to go? And how do we get there? The theme “Rethinking Tourism” reflects this and aims to inspire debate and create awareness. The potential of tourism is enormous, and we have a shared responsibility to ensure it is realized.
Everyone – Governments, businesses, and consumers – needs to reflect and align our tourism practices and habits with the Sustainable Development Goals and the 1.5°C future (The severe need to keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C in the future).
This is the time to pause, rethink, be honest and critique the tourism practices that do not contribute positively. But as part of this, it is essential to show the way forth with examples of how tourism can contribute positively so that we know where we need to go. Where there are challenges and the need for change – there is also potential! In this blog post, we want to highlight and create awareness about the potential of tourism.
Empowerment of and benefits to local communities
The tourism industry creates extremely many jobs worldwide; one out of every ten jobs is in tourism.
Work opportunities in tourism provide income and support livelihoods, particularly for youth and women. In addition, these jobs contribute to the education and empowerment of women and youth and advance the socioeconomic and cultural development of communities.
Tourism can therefore be a powerful tool for community development and an effective means for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to participate in the global economy, helping to reduce inequality within and among countries worldwide. But for this to happen, tourism has to involve the local community in its development. Therefore, tourism should uplift local communities and ensure that tourism’s benefits stay with locals.
Reducing emissions & Investing in clean and sustainable energy forms
Tourism is responsible for roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. Various activities contribute to tourism’s carbon footprint, from plane flights and boat rides to souvenirs and lodging. With over a billion tourists a year and this number set to continue increasing, the energy consumption and emission of all stakeholders in the tourism industry and how it is handled only becomes more relevant.
Luckily, new technologies and more sustainable energy solutions are emerging.
Because of tourism’s economic importance and influence, tourism can trigger environmental innovation and prioritization of sustainable energy solutions by advancing green infrastructure, technologies, accommodations, etc. Furthermore, when tourism is a primary economic activity for a destination, it can help the destination realize that the future of tourism as an economic activity depends on environmental sustainability, thereby driving investment in sustainable energy.
Tourism can also lead the way in developing renewable energy infrastructure, like wind and solar farms, on remote islands or rural areas that would not usually be exposed to clean energy.
Additionally, many accommodations and hotels are investing in the use and access to many natural energy resources. The increase of eco-certified and green hotels, such as the hotels found on EcoHotels.com, is dedicated to showing the way forth in more sustainable forms of energy use and consumption.
Cumulative human activity has resulted in widespread loss of natural habitat and biodiversity, with an average 68% decline in the abundance of wildlife and 1 in 4 species facing extinction. Irresponsible tourism contributes to this devastation of environments and ecosystems. But when tourism is well-managed, it can play a positive role in conserving and protecting ecosystems. Here are some examples of how:
Tourism can prevent ecosystem degradation by creating more sustainable jobs and livelihoods for local communities, such as guides, cooks, or housekeepers. In addition, tourism can help offer alternative income sources to communities instead of environmentally-destructive activities such as logging or illegal hunting. The growing interest in wildlife tourism, and the economic benefits that come along with it, can also change local communities’ attitudes towards conservation. Without tourism, some local communities may view wild animals as a danger to their farms and families and only value natural resources for consumption.
Environmental and conservation policies
Tourism can also be an incentive for governments and organizations to implement environmental and conservation policies (prioritize national parks, reserves, and other protected areas) to preserve biodiversity and thereby support the wildlife tourism appeal of the destination. Additionally, many protected areas are underfunded, and tourism can play an essential role in bridging this gap by providing an additional funding source.
When tourists connect with nature during their travels, it can lead them to appreciate it more and become invested in protecting it. In addition, tourism businesses and travelers can help to restore ecosystems actively. Examples are tourism businesses such as local dive operators helping restore coral reefs and training tourists and divers on basic reef restoration techniques, making them able to help maintain coral nurseries and outplant coral fragments onto degraded reef sites. Visitors can also help restore ecosystem health by cleaning up environments they visit, for example, by participating in beach clean-ups organized by tourism organizations and accommodation facilities.
One reason we mark International Days is to help educate and spread awareness about important issues for sustainable development. The areas of focus of this blog post are just a glimpse of the whole picture.