A desert inhabitant makes a living transporting the luggage of tourists in his dromedaries in Wadi Rum (the Valley of the Moon), Jordan. UN Photo/MJG
Tourism, a key sector in the world
Over the past six decades, tourism has experienced continued expansion and diversification, and it has become one of the fastest growing and most important economic sectors in the world, benefiting destinations and communities worldwide. International tourist arrivals worldwide have grown from 25 million in 1950 to nearly 1.2 billion in 2015. Similarly, international tourism revenues earned by destinations around the world have grown from 2 billion US dollars in 1950 to 1260 trillion in 2015. The sector represents an estimated 10% of the world’s GDP and 1 in 10 jobs globally.
It is estimated that tourism will continue to grow at an average of 3.3% annually until 2030. This growth over the second half of the 20th century and the 21st is due to the fact that access to tourism has progressively expanded thanks to the recognition of the right to holidays in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the improved adoption of labour rights in many countries and the growing middle class worldwide. Furthermore, in recent decades the emergence of new technologies applied to tourism and the decline in the price of transport, especially air transport, have led to an increase in international travel. Noteworthy is the resilience shown by the sector in recent years, which despite challenges such as the global economic crisis, natural disasters and pandemics, has experienced almost uninterrupted growth.
Like any activity, tourism has powerful effects on the economy, society and environment in generating countries and especially in the receiving countries. In addition to the socioeconomic impact of tourism, the sector, if managed sustainably, can be a factor for environmental preservation, cultural appreciation and understanding among peoples.
"Sustainable Tourism – a Tool for Development"
In 2017, the celebration of this World Day focuses on how sustainable tourism can contribute to development and it is held in Doha (Qatar).
Sustainable tourism is defined as tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. It should thus make optimal use of environmental resources, respect host communities and ensure viable, long-term economic operations so that benefits are equitably distributed among all stakeholders.
It is a positive instrument towards the eradication of poverty, the protection of the environment and the improvement of quality of life, especially in developing countries. Well-designed and well-managed tourism can make a significant contribution to the three dimensions of sustainable development —economic, social and environmental—, has close linkages to other sectors and can create decent jobs and generate trade opportunities.
It is therefore essential for all actors, including companies operating in the sector, to be aware of opportunities and responsibilities alike, and to act accordingly so that their actions leave a positive mark on the society in which they operate and ensure the sustainability of the destination and their businesses.
International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development
Recognizing the importance of international tourism in fostering better understanding among peoples everywhere, in leading to a greater awareness of the rich heritage of various civilizations and in bringing about a better appreciation of the inherent values of different cultures, hereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
This year provides a unique opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to sustainability and move forward to ensure the positive impact of well-managed tourism on inclusive and equitable growth, sustainable development and peace.