23 February 2006 Seeking to promote the development of tourism in a way that helps eradicate poverty, advances economic and social goals and conserves natural and cultural environments, the international Tour Operators Initiative (TOI) network has transferred its secretariat to the Madrid headquarters of the United Nations tourism organization.
“In their designing of holiday packages, and with their direct influence on the tourism supply chain, tour operators have a unique opportunity to exercise great influence on the level and type of tourism development that is carried out around the world,” UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Head of Sustainable Development Eugenio Yunis said in Welcoming TOI to Madrid.
Formerly based at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Paris, TOI was founded by a group of 15 major tour operators in 1999 with the backing of UNWTO, UNEP and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Since then it has grown to 20 companies from 11 countries and enlarged its support base to include Conservation International and the WWF.
A voluntary, non-profit organization, open to tour operators throughout the world, regardless of their size and geographical location, it carries out work in five key areas including research on environmental, socio-economic and cultural topics, capacity building to put into practice sustainable development and management principles through publications, workshops, conferences and training, and technical support.
“As the United Nations General Assembly has clearly stressed, tourism has an important role to play in eradicating poverty, advancing economic and social development, contributing to the conservation of natural and cultural environments and improving the quality of life for all peoples, as well as in promoting international peace and understanding,” Mr. Yunis said.
“This move opens up new and exciting possibilities for our work,” TOI chairman Tom Selanniemi said. “The UNWTO network will help open doors, especially to decision makers in tourism destinations, which will greatly support the integration of the concept of sustainability into tourism development.”
The 148-member UNWTO is a global forum that seeks to promote responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. UNEP and UNESCO, full TOI members will keep on actively supporting it by providing guidance and technical advice.