The United Nations General Assembly has met for a first ever dedicated session on tourism and its key role in inclusive recovery and growth.
The High-Level Thematic Debate was convened by the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Abdulla Shahid, in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). In the General Assembly Hall, government representatives joined public and private stakeholders in recognizing tourism’s unique ability to drive positive change.
As part of the "long journey" to recover from the ravages of COVID-19, UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid highlighted on May 4 the need to build a more sustainable, resilient, and responsible global tourism sector. Since the COVID-19 pandemic ground the entire tourism sector to a halt, dealing a "devastating blow to the global economy".
However, "Travel and tourism connect and unite us…builds bridges and facilitates inter-cultural exchanges…[and] fosters peace and solidarity across continents and borders," said Mr. Shahid. "As the pandemic wanes, the tourism sector is rebounding", he said, speaking to "the human need to connect, to explore, to experience".
"As it rebounds, it is important that we reflect on its future direction".
While acknowledging the economic importance of tourism, the Assembly president warned that we must also contend with the harm it inflicts on the planet, such as carbon emissions; oceans brimming with plastics; and the human toll on ecosystems and wildlife.
Throughout the discussions, the UN official encouraged participants to address their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and enhance the inclusion and empowerment of women, youth, indigenous and other marginalized communities
"Today, I call on all stakeholders to seize every opportunity to transform the tourism sector, and to target a more sustainable, inclusive and responsible approach," he said.
World Tourism Organization (WTO) chief Zurab Pololikashvili noted that the current energy crisis contributes to the vulnerability of the tourism sector, while maintaining that investments in tourism are also investments in peace.
He said tourism was particularly important to the livelihoods of women, youth and rural communities, and championed the need for a fresh, sustainable balance between the short-term demands of tourists and the longer-term needs of communities.
The WTO official stressed that tourism can drive positive change, and lauded the diverse sectors that have participated in the "landmark" conversation about sustainability.
The Director of the World Bank's Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice, Sameh Wahba, spoke of inclusive, resilient sustainable cities and communities. He said that as tourism employs 10 per cent of the global workforce, it offers important opportunities for women, rural communities and small businesses.
Mr. Wahba advocated support for nations to promote sustainable tourism to benefit poor communities and preserve culture, heritage and the environment.
Deputy UN chief Amina Mohammed observed that "tourism is in turmoil," largely from the COVID pandemic, but also from conflict settings, including Ukraine.
Insisting that sustainability remain at the core of tourism, she advocated for the sector to be transformed into a positive force in implementing the SDGs.
The debate's agenda also includes a series of round-table discussions on the challenges of sustainable tourism recovery, trade-offs between economic growth and sustainable development, people-centered sustainable tourism, climate-friendly transformation of tourism, and boosting tourism investment. The high-level debate is considered to lay the foundation for promoting tourism as a regular topic of the UN General Assembly.
For more information, please refer to https://www.unwto.org/news/unwto-brings-tourism-for-transformation-to-un-general-assembly and https://media.un.org/en/asset/k1w/k1wiwwheql.