collage of people working in the tourism informal sector

More than 40 years celebrating this important economic sector

Tourism is one of the world’s most important economic sectors. It employs one in every ten people on Earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more. For some countries, it can represent over 20 percent of their GDP.

It allows people to experience some of the world’s cultural and natural riches and brings people closer to each other, highlighting our common humanity.

Tourism is an essential pillar of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the commitment to our Sustainable Development Goals, especially goals 812, and 14. It serves as a first entry point to the world of work, especially for women, youth, migrant workers, and rural populations in developing and least developed countries (LDCs). Women represent a majority of the tourism sector workforce, while half of that workforce is under 25 years of age. Moreover, in many parts of the world, the protection of biodiversity and conservation rely heavily on the tourism sector and the revenue it generates.

The constant growth of the tourism sector during the last six decades reflects more progressive access to tourism thanks to the decline in the cost of transport and the world-wide growth of the middle classes. The recognition of the right to holidays in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the improved adoption of labor rights in many countries have also supported its development. These factors also serve as a backdrop for the resilience shown by tourism in recent years. The sector has experienced almost uninterrupted growth despite challenges such as the global economic crisis and natural disasters.

The many important contributions of tourism encouraged the  UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to institute World Tourism Day in a meeting that took place in Spain, commencing the first celebration of the observance in the year 1980. This date was chosen to coincide with an important milestone in world tourism: the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes on 27 September 1970.

Afterwards, during its 70th session in 2015, the United Nations General Assembly designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development (resolution A/RES/70/193), in which it encouraged support for sustainable tourism as a means of promoting and accelerating sustainable development, especially poverty eradication.