2010 World Tourism Day Celebrates Sustainable Travel
This year, World Tourism Day circled the the theme "Tourism & Biodiversity", giving a nice boost to the sustainable travel movement. The events, organized by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTWO), China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) and Guangdong Province, took place in Guangzhou, China. The 2010 theme of the annual event coincides with the United Nation's "International Year of Biodiversity". Last year, World Tourism Day took place in Ghana, with the theme "Celebrating Diversity." Other themes have included "Tourism: Responding to the Challenge of Climate Change" (Peru, 2008), "Tourism Opens Doors for Women" (Sri Lanka, 2007), and "Ecotourism, the Key to Sustainable Development" (Costa Rica, 2002).
Shao Qiwei, chairman of CNTA, began this year's event with the following statement: "China has identified tourism as strategic pillar of its national economic policy and is committed to sustainable development, including the responsible use of environmental resources." The panel discussions continued along these lines, touching on the importance of protecting biodiversity and promoting sustainable travel worldwide.
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the UN, delivered this message regarding his hopes for World Tourism Day, "I commend the tourism community for its growing recognition of the importance of conserving the diversity of life on Earth, and I urge all partners to strengthen their commitment to sustainability." Ki-moon emphasized the relationship between poverty alleviation, biodiversity and tourism. Taleb Rifai,Secretary-General of the UNWTO, discussed the world's need to protect "our natural capital." He highlighted the importance of a balanced ecosystem for the sake of human wellbeing, and, like Ki-moon, discussed how sustainable travel can improve economic conditions and help countries understand biodiversity as an asset. He said, "Now, more than ever, the tourism sector must generate momentum and accelerate progress towards the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity."
In discussions moderated by Jaime FlorCruz, from CNN International, tourism ministers and biodiversity researchers agreed that biodiversity is an important asset for tourism. The gist of the statements: the tourism industry needs to assume responsibility and help conserve biodiversity. While the public sector should provide the framework to make sustainable travel possible, the private sector is responsible for implementing and assessing objectives.
Panel leaders argued that while companies and governments must lead the movement, engaging the local community is also crucial to long-term sustainability and economic growth. Sustainable travel includes providing economic opportunities for local communities, which also increases the incentive for residents to protect their environment. The conclusions of the dialogue will be presented by UNWTO at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (October 18-29, Nagoya, Japan).