19 July 2011 The United Nations and China have opened a third sustainable tourism observatory in the world’s most populous country to monitor the environmental and socio-economic impacts of tourism.
The Zhangjiajie Observatory, located in Hunan province, will gather and report data about the impact of tourism based on sustainable tourism indicators established by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
The observatory is located at the entrance to Zhangjiajie National Park, the first national park in China and a site inscribed on the World Heritage List managed by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Zhangjiajie National Park receives as many as 40,000 tourist visitors each day during its high season and is partly responsible for a local boom in wealth and jobs related to tourism.
Taleb Rifai, the Secretary-General of UNWTO, said local authorities are aware of both the economic importance of tourism and the need to manage tourism growth sustainably.
“The observatory represents a vital tool for doing so, providing tourism organizations with the information they need to move forward sustainably,” he said.
The observatory – part of the Global Observatory on Sustainable Tourism initiative established by UNWTO – will be managed by a monitoring centre based at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, as are the two other observatories already in operation in China.