The United Nations Deputy Secretary-General today encouraged governments, the tourism industry and local communities to work together to tackle the important challenge of urbanization and tourism to sustainable development.
In remarks to the Working Luncheon on Sustainable Urban Development and Tourism, hosted by the Permanent Mission of China to the UN, Jan Eliasson noted that growth of urbanization and tourism is a natural consequence of a globalizing, inter-dependent world. And much of the growth in recent decades has been spearheaded by China and other Asian countries.
Last September, the Beijing municipal government took the initiative to establish the World Tourism Cities Federation, headquartered in Beijing. In less than a year, membership has grown to 57 cities.
“Cities are a driving force for tourism,” the Deputy Secretary-General said, pointing out that international tourist arrivals grew from 25 million in 1950 to over 1 billion in 2012. International tourism revenues have also risen significantly, surpassing the $1 trillion milestone in 2011.
“Behind the statistics lies an even greater story – the growth of cities and tourism in Asia and the Pacific,” he added, noting that international tourist arrivals in Asia and the Pacific have grown from just 23 million in 1980 to a total of 233 million last year.
“The emergence of Asia and the Pacific in world tourism is testimony not only to the rise of Asia and the Pacific in the global economy but also to the speed and scope of urbanization and globalization,” he stated.
“While we celebrate this momentum for growth, we should also pause and ask: Can this remarkable, increase in urbanization and tourism be sustained, economically, socially and environmentally? What are the implications for sustainable development worldwide? ...
“As we look ahead, how will governments, the tourism industry and local communities work together to advance sustainable tourism?”
Mr. Eliasson said that, on the economic front, it is necessary to work together to ensure that sustainable urban development and tourism becomes a driving force for economic growth through job creation, investments and through the impact of sustainable urbanization and tourism on other sectors of the economy.
“In short, we must ensure that the fruits of sustainable urban development and sustainable tourism are shared broadly and equitably,” he stated.
It is also vital to promote the social and cultural dimension of sustainable urban development and tourism, as well as to protect cultural diversity and to respect local traditions and customs.
Turning to the environment, he said city governments, the tourism industry and local communities must work together to protect the ecosystems that provide the foundation for urban growth and tourism.
“They must also take measures to address the negative impact of increased urbanization and tourism on the environment, not least by addressing air pollution, congestion, shortages in water supply and lack of sanitation,” he stated.
“Let us never forget that damage to the environment threatens the very viability, indeed the survival, of sustainable urban development and tourism.”
Noting that tourism employs millions of people across the world, generates commerce and trade and lifts communities out of poverty, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month stressed that the industry “can and must play a role in our shared efforts to build a more sustainable world.”
In a message to the Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Mr. Ban said that greening the industry is crucial to its future, and the planet’s.
“Last year we reached an historic mark: more than one billion tourists crossed international borders. We must ensure that these movements are a transformative force – a force that builds peace, stimulates the economy, preserves the environment and promotes universal values.”