Participants at the side event, “Tourism for a Sustainable Future,” held at Rio+20, agreed that tourism can make a significant contribution to the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social, and environmental.
“Tourism is interlinked with the seven key themes being discussed here at Rio+20 – jobs, energy, cities, food, water, oceans, and disasters – and can be a factor of development for developing and developed countries alike,” said Gastão Vieira, Minister of Tourism of Brazil, opening the event.
“We are here today at Rio, twenty years after the first Earth Summit, to renew our commitments, define shared goals, and agree on a roadmap for a better future,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, highlighting that “amid growing economic concerns, it is now, more than ever, that we need to call for the right policies, the adequate investment, and the proper business practices that can advance us towards fairer, more people-centered, inclusive growth.”
“Tourism’s capacity to create jobs is central to this debate,” said Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), underlining tourism’s multiplier effects, “We cannot forget that for every job created in tourism, many more jobs are created in other sectors.”
The role of the UN system in advancing tourism’s contribution to economic growth and development was debated, namely the work of the UN Steering Committee on Tourism for Development (SCTD), an initiative led by UNWTO and bringing together eight further UN agencies and programs (ILO, ITC, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNIDO, WTO) to ensure an integrated and more effective international cooperation – “Delivering as One” - for tourism and to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Participants emphasized the role of sustainable tourism in creating decent jobs, stimulating trade and linkages, and eliminating poverty. There was a clear call to improve the link between local communities and tourism attractions in order make tourism a more effective tool in the fight against poverty and to advance awareness-raising among tourists of their obligation to respect and protect the environment considering that it is tourism’s prime interest and responsibility to protect natural resources.
Closing the event, Maurice Strong, Secretary-General of the 1992 Earth Summit, said, “Your sector has a real interest in protecting the environment and a huge potential for the green economy, as its assets are the ones we need to preserve and enhance.”
The event also counted on the participation of the Minister of Tourism of Ecuador, Freddy Ehlers; the Minister of Tourism of Madagascar, Jean Max Rakotomamonjy; the Vice-Minister for Tourism Planning of Mexico, Jorge Mezher; Ambassador Dho Young-Shim, Member of the UN MDG Advocacy Group and Chair of the ST-EP Foundation (Sustainable Tourism - Eliminating Poverty); the President of the ST-EP Foundation and former UNWTO Secretary-General, Francesco Frangialli; and Shahrazad Roohi, Environmental Advisor for the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority.
UNWTO Side-Events at RIO+20: http://icr.unwto.org/en/content/un-steering-committee-tourism-development-sctd