Can The Tourism Industry Use Its Clout To Create A Better World?

Did you know that 2017 is to be the ‘International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development’? No, we didn’t either. But as the United Nations is behind it, you can expect to read a lot more about it over the next twelve months.

The idea is to ‘celebrate and promote the contribution of the tourism sector to building a better world’. Well, we’ll see.

But you can see why the UN has hit on the tourism industry, as it does have some clout. The industry accounts for 7% of worldwide exports, one in eleven jobs and 10% of the world’s GDP. So if any industry sector can ‘foster inclusive economic growth, social inclusiveness and the protection of cultural and natural assets’, then the tourism industry can.

The UN is hoping that tourism can play a role in achieving five things

  1. Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
  2. Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
  3. Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
  4. Cultural values, diversity and heritage
  5. Mutual understanding, peace and security.

According to statements made at the – no doubt enormous – kick off event that the UN held to launch the initiative last week, it announced that ‘The International Year aims to support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behaviour towards a more sustainable tourism sector’. We guess that means putting more waste in the recycling bins and not using all the towels.

We were encouraged, however, to see ABTA be one of the first trade associations in the international travel sector to publicly support it. ABTA will be ‘encouraging its Members and Partners to engage with its sustainable tourism programmes making tourism better for the environment, better for local places and better for local economies, all of which will ultimately benefit tourism’s long-term viability and profitability’.

These represent ‘mighty fine words’ and it will be interesting to see if the ABTA members can translate them into something tangible and something that the ABTA members’ customer can get behind. We at Explorer Travel Insurance are already aware how much importance our customers attach to sustainable travel, especially our backpacker customers.



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