Tourism is the world’s largest industry and studies predict its increasing growth. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) estimates that the number of international tourist arrivals has grown from 25 million in 1950 to 898 million in 2006, corresponding to an average annual growth rate of 6.5%. Looking ahead, international tourist arrivals are forecast to reach 1.6 billion by 2020. Receipts from international tourism (excluding international fare receipts) reached US$733 billion in 2006. World-wide, the average receipt per arrival is around US$680. In addition, domestic tourism is of major importance in many countries.
Tourism is thus an important factor in the economy of many countries and in the management of many cultural sites and natural areas. Being a people-oriented industry, tourism also provides many jobs which have helped revitalize local economies. Yet by its very nature tourism is ambivalent, and this ambivalence may be particularly striking in those small island states where tourism represents an important part of annual revenue. Here, growth in tourism may be accompanied by many problems and difficulties, such as conflicting demands on limited resources (e.g. fresh water, beach access), issues related to energy supply and waste disposal, and so on.
Within UNESCO, several initiatives seek to promote a new tourism culture, based on common sense and the responsible use of the environmental resources and cultural assets of each destination. As described in the Orgnization’s contribution to the World Ecotourism Summit (Quebec City, Canada, May 2002), activities include intellectual contributions, the promotion of ethical principles and the concrete testing of approaches to sustainable tourism at the field level. The role includes both normative and standard-setting functions. The work also entails cooperation and partnerships with a wide range of other bodies. Some examples follow.
- Tourism and the World Heritage
- Biosphere Reserves and Tourism
- Heritage Tourism and Youth Empowerment: YouthPATH
- Cultural Tourism and the African Diaspora Heritage Trail
- Coastal and Marine Tourism within the Programme of the IOC
- Web-Based Discussion Forum
- Draft International Guidelines on Sustainable Tourism
- Joint Initiative with Tour Operators
- Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future
- Tourism and the WiCOP Forum
- NGO Initiatives
- Participatation Programme
- UNESCO Focal Points for ‘Tourism Resources’ in SIDS Regions
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