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World Tourism Day - 27th September

By Michael Evans - 27 Sep 2012 0:1:0 GMT
World Tourism Day - 27th September

World Tourism Day Logo; Credit: © Shutterstock

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. Tourism is seen as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and over 100 countries have benefited from UNWTO's worldwide leadership and support.

As long ago as 1979 it was decided that 27th September would be designated World Tourism Day, a date that was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes on 27th September 1970.

The purpose of World Tourism Day is to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. It also seeks to address the global challenges outlined in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and to highlight the contribution that the tourism industry can make towards reaching these goals.

The theme of World Tourism Day 2012 is: Tourism & Sustainable Energy: Powering Sustainable Development. This theme aims to highlight tourism's role in a brighter energy future in which everyone in the world has access to modern, efficient and affordable energy services.

Tourism is one of the world's largest economic sectors and is already at the forefront of some of the world's most ambitious and innovative clean energy solutions. Important steps have already been taken towards the future by improving energy efficiency, and renewable energy technologies are increasingly being used in its operations. In addition to helping to protect the planet, many of these steps are creating jobs and helping to lift people out of poverty.

Tourism depends on effective transportation and it is in the transportation industry where many of these innovations are most evident. The aviation industry is implementing cutting edge technologies that are reducing the overall weight of aircraft and consequently reducing the amount of fuel consumed. Commercial aircraft are also increasingly using bio fuels in their fuel mix.

Hotels have also become much more energy saving conscious, with energy saving light bulbs becoming the norm in many locations. Tour operators are being encouraged to promote energy efficient procedures throughout their supply chains.

The very important cruising industry is also making a major contribution with increasing use being made of renewable fuels in large cruise ships.

Clean energy solutions can have a major effect on the reduction of the carbon emissions generated by the tourist industry. Being such an enormous global industry, these reductions can make a significant difference worldwide.

There are also many other benefits. Development of tourism can bring improvements to local infrastructures, which can bring benefits to local environments and communities. Modern energy systems are able to reach the world's poor, business costs are reduced and jobs are created along with economic opportunities.

It has been estimated that during 2012, around a billion international tourists are expected to travel. This presents a major challenge. It is seen as a time to commit to a more sustainable tourism sector, with a sustainable future for all.

The 2012 official celebrations will take place in Maspalomas, Gran Canaris, Spain. This will include a Think Tank where top experts and policy makers will consider the 2012 theme.

One of the darker sides of world tourism will also be considered in a Debate on Tourism and Social Responsibility "Fighting Together Against Child Sexual Exploitation in the Tourism Sector". The debate will be organised jointly by UNICEF Spain and the Federation of Associations for the Prevention of Child Mistreatment.

Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General is naturally very upbeat about the contribution that world tourism is already making to sustainable development, particularly in the way that not only is the industry helping to protect the environment, but at the part it is playing in ending energy poverty.

These issues, said Mr Rafai, are being addressed by the 2012 UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All that aims to ensure universal energy access, significant improvements in rates of energy efficiency and the doubling of the share of renewable energy in the world by 2030.

These sustainable energy initiatives benefit the world and not just the tourism industry said Mr Rifai and he urged all tourism stakeholders, whether they be governments, businesses, or tourists themselves, to play their part in helping to achieve the UN's sustainable energy goals.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, echoed these thoughts when he thanked tourists for playing their part in offsetting their own carbon emissions, whether by choosing ecologically friendly destinations and providers, or simply by not having their towels laundered every day.

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