Deputy Secretary-General Highlights Potential, Pitfalls of Tourism in Remarks to Ministerial Round Table on Fostering Growth, Achieving Millennium Goals

11 October 2011

Deputy Secretary-General Highlights Potential, Pitfalls of Tourism in Remarks to Ministerial Round Table on Fostering Growth, Achieving Millennium Goals

11 October 2011
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General Highlights Potential, Pitfalls of Tourism in Remarks

to Ministerial Round Table on Fostering Growth, Achieving Millennium Goals

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the World Tourism Organization General Assembly Ministerial Round Table “Fostering Growth and the Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals through Tourism, Culture and Sports”, in Gyeongju on 10 October:

I am pleased to attend this Ministerial Round Table, and I commend the organizers for selecting this topic.

Tourism has great potential for contributing to achieving the Millennium Development Goals; but that potential has yet to be fully realized.  It is a multi-sector field and can be used to positively affect all sectors — infrastructure trade and services, sports and culture.

Over the past several decades, international tourism has seen exponential growth.  It represents 5 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 30 per cent of global exports of services.  This share is even higher in developing countries.

Destinations for tourism have diversified substantially, and a growing number of developing countries are witnessing growth in tourist arrivals and expenditure.  This is creating jobs for local communities and diversifying national economies.  The question is:  how can this phenomenal growth be harnessed in support of the Millennium Development Goals?

I see potential on several fronts.  For eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, tourism should continue to aim at improving the livelihoods of the poor through improvements in basic infrastructure and services, including transport and communications, water supply, energy and health care services.

Community-oriented tourism should expand further to provide employment opportunities for the poor, and create facilities for tourists to purchase goods and services directly from the poor.  Experience shows that community-oriented tourism is a growing supporter of family and small-sized enterprises in developing countries.

Tourism should also aim at empowering women by employing them as managers and creating opportunities for women-run businesses.  I have witnessed first-hand how community-oriented tourism can promote women’s social and economic mobility and unlock their entrepreneurship.

In recognizing the potential of tourism, we also need to bear in mind the potential pitfalls.  If not well-managed, tourism may aggravate the spread of HIV/AIDS.  Enhancing awareness about HIV/AIDS issues must therefore be an integral part of national tourism strategies.  Uncontrolled tourism may also negatively affect fragile ecosystems and damage cultural heritage.

Furthermore, the economic benefits are of little use if they are repatriated overseas, fail to reach the poor, and are not used to provide better education, health care and other important basic services.  We must therefore call on Governments and the tourism industry to work in partnership, and to engage with local communities to develop tourism that is pro-poor, community-oriented, and sustainable.

Let me propose the following specifics.  First, Governments should develop a pro-poor tourism strategy that focuses on services and jobs.  Second, they should integrate gender participation in all decision-making.  Third, Governments should increase community participation in developing tourism products and in the development and management of tourism sites.  Fourth, they should integrate environmental and cultural protection with tourism development.

Despite global economic turbulence, tourism appears to be one sector that is certain to grow, especially in the developing world.  That means we have real opportunities to ensure that tourism contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  One such opportunity comes next year at the vitally important “ Rio+20” Conference on Sustainable Development.

I invite Member States, the tourism industry and civil society groups, in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization, to organize events and discussions in Rio on sustainable tourism.  Rio+20 is a generational opportunity to shape the world of tomorrow by the decisions we make today.

Sustainable development is among the Secretary-General’s highest priorities — perhaps the highest.  This is because saving our planet, lifting the poor from poverty, and advancing economic growth for all are one and the same cause.

From the soil of sustainable development we can grow peace, security, human rights and a world of opportunity for all.  Sustainable tourism has an important role to play.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.