Tourism plays key role in preserving world's rich diversity, says UN official

27 September 2009

Tourism can play a vital role in preserving the rich cultural and natural diversity across the world by promoting sustainable development and global understanding, says a senior United Nations official.

In a message for World Tourism Day, the acting head of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) noted that while globalization can be a means to improve economic collaboration and understanding, it cannot come at the cost of diluting the world's rich cultural diversity.

“In this respect, travel and tourism can and must play a key role,” said Taleb Rifai.

“Tourism shares the social responsibility of promoting the positive aspects of globalization and as such must direct these global networks towards balanced and sustainable development,” he stated.

World Tourism Day, observed annually on 27 September, is being celebrated this year in Accra, Ghana, and features a think tank around the theme “Tourism: Celebrating Diversity.”

This year's celebration marks the 30th anniversary of the Day and aims to highlight the wealth of cultural and natural diversity across the globe as well as the role of sustainable tourism in preserving this diversity.

Mr. Rifai noted that diversity is one of the driving forces behind tourism and can allow all nations to share the numerous benefits brought about by building stronger ties with other countries.

“As such, tourism is an undisputed catalyst for building understanding, fostering social inclusion and promoting higher standards of living,” he said.

“This type of unity and collaboration is increasingly important as the world comes together to face climate change and ensure sustainable development, particularly in the context of the current economic crisis.”

The Madrid-based UNWTO serves as a global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism know-how. Its membership includes 161 countries and territories and more than 370 affiliate members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.


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