The potential of tourism to preserve biodiversity

Just a few weeks ahead of launching the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, which will be celebrated throughout 2017, UNWTO underlined in Cancun the need for national policies and frameworks for sustainable tourism that protect biodiversity and foster multi-stakeholder partnerships.

“Tourism and biodiversity are natural allies and UNWTO is fully committed to its joint work with the Convention of Biological Diversity. Tourism can highly contribute to the protection of biodiversity, by raising awareness, by engaging the tourism community and by proposing sustainable alternatives for local communities,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai at the opening of the conference.

Erick Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said “Tourism is one of the biggest job creators on planet Earth. So if we protect biodiversity, we are creating jobs.”

“I want to thank the World Tourism Organization for the work they have done in the area of biodiversity,” said Braulio Ferreira, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, at the event.

The participation of UNWTO in COP-13 included the side-event ‘Tourism, Business & the Environment’, which addressed strategies to promote tourism experiences that can be both sustainable and profitable, creating opportunities for local communities.

Now, only few weeks ahead of the official launch of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017, set to take place on the 18 of January 2017 in Madrid, Spain, representatives from various tourism industries and beyond have joined UNWTO to support the celebrations of this important event.

The United Nations 70th General Assembly has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. In the context of the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the International Year aims to support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behavior towards a more sustainable tourism sector that contributes to the SDGs.

The Ministry of Tourism of Mexico, the German National Tourism Board, All Nippon Airways, the Global Tourism Economy Research Centre, Macao, China, the Balearic Islands Tourism Agency, Minube, Amadeus, the European Geoparks Network, The Travel Corporation and DDB are among the first sponsors to join UNWTO to support the programme of activities of the Year. The City of Zurich, the University of Crete, CABI and Green Key have also joined as “Friends” of the Year.

“The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, to be launched in January in Madrid, is a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the contribution of sustainable tourism to development among public and private sector decision-makers and the general public, while mobilizing all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai.

The year will promote tourism’s role in the following five key areas:

(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.

A full programme of activities will be unveiled on 18 January on the occasion of the Opening of the International Year.