International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development officially kicks off

The event, held in the El Pardo Palace in Madrid, Spain, was attended by the Prime Minister of Georgia, the Vice-President of Honduras, more than 40 tourism ministers and other senior officials from 57 countries.

The UNWTO Secretary-General underscored the continued growth of tourism since the beginning of the crisis – “in 2016, more than 1.2 billion people travelled around the world for tourism purposes and another 6 billion people travelled domestically” – and emphasized the need to move towards more sustainable tourism in all its dimensions.

“In parallel with the growth of the sector, there is also increased responsibility to advance towards greater sustainability, equity, inclusiveness and peace in our societies,” he said.

For his part, His Majesty the King mentioned that “there are many reasons for declaring 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, such as greater appreciation of different cultures and thus peace among peoples”.

“To have been chosen as the host country for the launch of the International Year is an acknowledgement of Spain’s commitment in areas such as ecotourism, cultural tourism and agrotourism initiatives,” he said.

The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 was declared in December 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly. The Year was also presented in Madrid on the opening day of FITUR, marking an important milestone in the 2030 Agenda and in the progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Nearly 600 participants attended the Official Launch of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017. The event took place in the International Tourism Fair of Spain, FITUR, and will be followed by 12 months of global actions aimed at advancing sustainable tourism contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Co-presented by Max Forster, CNN, and Raquel Martínez, RTVE, the event underlined the immense socio-economic opportunities brought by the sector to all societies as well as its power to advocate for mutual understanding, peace and sustainable development worldwide.

“Every day, more than three million tourists cross international borders. Every year, almost 1.2 billion people travel abroad. Tourism has become a pillar of economies, a passport to prosperity, and a transformative force for improving millions of lives. The world can and must harness the power of tourism as we strive to carry out the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development“ said United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in his message on the occasion of the International Year.

“2017 is a unique opportunity for us to promote the contribution of tourism to achieving the future we want – and also to determine, together, the exact role we will have tourism play in the sustainable development agenda, to and beyond 2030. A unique opportunity to ensure that tourism is a pillar in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, said UNWTO Secretary General, Taleb Rifai, opening of the event.

“With the launch of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development we once again emphasize that our nations all face common global challenges, which can only be resolved through advancing relations and furthering partnerships. By introducing this initiative, we have highlighted that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the focal point for future development, and will guide us to create long-term assets, and prevent relevant liabilities.”, said the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

“The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 is an incentive to a foster social and political dialogue which can promote initiatives, investments and government actions leading to development and the fight against poverty” said the Vice-President of Honduras, Ricardo Alvarez Arias.

“The 2030 Agenda considers sustainable tourism as a vector of development, job creation and the promotion of local culture and products. Tourism is part of the Sustainable Development Goals and contributes decisively to almost all 17 Goals through its impacts on fighting poverty, promoting decent jobs, improving gender equality and the livelihoods of young people or the fight against climate change” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, Alfonso María Dastis.

Addressing the Ceremony were also Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Francesco Bandarin, Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO and Elzbieta Bienkowska, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.

On the occasion, UNWTO announced the nomination of the Ambassadors of the International Year: HE Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia; HM King Simeon II; Huayong Ge, President, UnionPay; Dr Talal Abu Ghazaleh, Chairman, Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization and Dr Michael Frenzel, President, Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry

The event also marked the launch of the International Year campaign ‘Travel.Enjoy.Respect’, aimed at promoting sustainable tourism among travelers in partnership with CNN and RTVE.