Top United Nations officials today stressed the important role that sustainable tourism can play in conserving the diversity of life on the planet and in helping to reduce poverty as they marked World Tourism Day.
“Tourism and biodiversity are closely intertwined,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted in his message for the Day, pointing out that millions of people travel each year to experience nature.
“The income generated by sustainable tourism can provide important support for nature conservation, as well as for economic development,” he stated. “Furthermore, sustainable tourism can help to raise awareness among tourists and local communities of the importance of biodiversity to our everyday lives.”
Mr. Ban pointed out that despite repeated global pledges to protect the planet’s species and habitats – and the goods and services they provide – the variety of life on Earth continues to decline at an unprecedented rate, adding that human activities are the cause.
This year, which happens to be the International Year of Biodiversity, provides a timely opportunity to focus on the urgency of safeguarding biodiversity for the wealth, health and well-being of people in all regions of the world, he added.
The tourism community is becoming increasingly aware of its responsibility, he stated. “Indeed there is much the sector can contribute to protecting biodiversity, including by integrating simple measures such as managing tour groups to minimize disturbance to wildlife or buying supplies only from sustainable sources.”
He added that through initiatives such as its “Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty” project, and its collaboration with the UN family, national tourism authorities and the private sector, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is helping to highlight the links between tourism, poverty alleviation and biodiversity.
The Secretary-General of the UNWTO, Taleb Rifai, noted the “immeasurable” value of biodiversity for tourism in his message.
“A healthy tourism industry depends on a healthy resource base, and sustainable growth in tourism means increased funds for conservation,” he stated.
Tourism revenues resulting from the enjoyment of biological diversity, often located in the world’s less developed regions, are a significant source of income and employment for local communities, said Mr. Rifai.
“It is this relationship between tourism and biodiversity and the resulting positive impacts on local livelihoods, development and poverty alleviation that must set the tone for sustainable tourism development.”
Observed annually on 27 September, World Tourism Day serves to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value.
This year’s celebration is being hosted by China in Guangdong province, under the theme “Tourism and Biodiversity,” with many other events taking place around the globe.