Sustainable Tourism as a Mechanism for Global Development
By admin October 2, 2017

On World Tourism Day, which recently passed on 27 September 2017, the United Nations stressed the potential of sustainable tourism as a mechanism for economic, social, environmental, and cultural sustainable development. To kick off the celebratory day, Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), attended an official UN celebration of the Day in Doha, Qatar and proclaimed that “this year’s celebration comes at a very special time. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come together and promote travel and tourism, as one of the most effective transformative human forces of the 21st century.” Moreover, Rifai also pointed out that 2017 is the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

As travel by air increases over the decade, tourism will continue to be a force for global development and there will be an increased focus towards sustainable practices to meet the rising demands of travel. The UNWTO chief estimated that in 2016 over 1,235 million individuals crossed international borders. With an estimated $3.2 billion of spending worldwide every day for tourism related practices, the industry creates nearly 10 percent of jobs globally and the gross domestic product as well as 30 percent of world trade in services. According to estimates by UNWTO, travel and tourism are expected to reach numbers of 1.8 billion by 2030.

While there has often been critical responses to global tourism and the influence of Western hemisphere in global development as it relates to the travel and hospitality industry, tourism has also advanced the economies, workforce, and trade relations of several developing countries. In Africa, Rwanda is one of the most premier destinations for tourism according to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB). RDB projects that tourism industry in Rwanda, particularly safari attractions, have exceeded $400 million USD in 2016. Moreover, in Kigali, development for a convention center is now part of the government’s framework in creating the city as a major business hub. Part of the rise in the tourism economy was promoted through development of eco-villages, real estate construction, sustainable home stays and wildlife viewing in national parks. Thus, the duality of sustainable tourism efforts combined with economic incentive should be, and increasingly is, a motivation factor for several countries, especially in Africa and Latin America to develop sustainable tourism enterprises that support the economy and workforce of local citizens.

In his statement, Rifai stressed “beyond the numbers and the economic benefits, travel and tourism is today a major contributor to a transformation that slowly and gradually is bringing us together, as humans, like never before, in a fast, globalized world.” Thus, as international travel increases over the decade, the landscape of tourism will quickly rise in numbers, but it will also take a new direction towards best practices in terms of sustainable development, eco-friendly resources, and economic development for the local communities supporting visitors.

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