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2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, to foster environmental conservation and economic growth.

Tourism, as a sector that fosters human and environmental wellness, must be an opportunity, not a problem: that’s why the United Nations General Assembly decided on 7 December 2015, that 2017 would be the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Fifteen years after the first celebrations of sustainable tourism, the UN felt the need of using this market sector – whose annual revenue amounts to about 1,260 billion dollars – to promote environmental and human wellness.

What is sustainable tourism?

The concept of sustainable tourism was introduced in 1988 – about one year after the definition of sustainable development – by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO); it defines a way of travelling that doesn’t impact the natural, social, historic and cultural environment and doesn’t discourage the development of social and economic activities. Basically, it has a low environmental impact and has the objective of recovering the economy of poor countries.

Sustainable tourism is defined as the contrary of mass tourism, which has a high impact and doesn’t foster economic, social and environmental development in poor countries.

International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development
The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development promotes tourism’s contribution to environmental protection and respect for people © Getty Images

Tourists often have a very high impact; data collected by the European Environment Agency (EEA) confirm this: according to a study conducted in 2015 and updated in November 2016, European tourists daily consume from 3 to 4 times more water than they normally consume, while the EU air transport industry is one of the most polluting.

International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development: why

The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development was established to raise awareness on environmental issues and transform tourism into a motor for sustainable development in poor countries. As well as to highlight that environmental protection must go hand in hand with social equality.

According to UNWTO Secretary General, Taleb Rifai, the establishment of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is “a unique opportunity to build a more responsible and committed tourism sector that can capitalize its immense potential in terms of economic prosperity, social inclusion, peace and understanding, cultural and environmental preservation”. This confirms the opinion of global leaders, who during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 20) told that “well-planned and well-managed” tourism can contribute also to creating jobs and foster trade.

sustainable tourism
Sustainable tourism can have a crucial role in fostering local development © Getty Images

The 2002 celebrations

In 1998 the United Nations General Assembly declared 2002 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, highlighting the issue of pollution generated by mass tourism.

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