World tourism, struck down by an unprecedented crisis over the past two years, seems to be rising from its ashes to erase the losses incurred and also begin its quest for a new, more sustainable and inclusive model capable of strengthening its resilience in the face of shocks.
The gradual reopening of air borders between countries has given a boost to activity, which is currently facing new challenges linked in particular to the context of inflationary pressures and soaring fuel prices.
Challenges that challenge more than ever the need to act differently with regard to the tourism sector. And it is in this perspective of paradigm shift that World Tourism Day (WTD) is celebrated this year under the theme “Rethinking Tourism”.
More than just a slogan, it is, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a real desire to put humanity and the planet first and to bring together all the actors, from the powers public and businesses to local communities, around a shared vision for a more sustainable, more inclusive and more resilient tourism sector.
“World Tourism Day has always been an opportunity to come together to celebrate the many and varied successes of our sector. For the better part of four decades, we have celebrated its unparalleled growth – in size, scope and importance,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a message posted on the organization’s website. .
And to continue: “In 2022, we will, once again, acknowledge that tourism has been and remains a source of opportunities for people all over the world. However, this year, we are also making the particular observation that we cannot go back to our old habits. We must rethink tourism”.
Thus, there is a need, with the reopening of the world, to learn from the lessons of the pandemic and the crippling of international travel it has caused, Pololikashvili said, noting that the crisis has shown where to build resilience and where act for greater equity.
“Our focus remains the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but all industry players need to rethink how to achieve them,” he said.
The SG of UNWTO, in this regard, underlined that it is up to those who form the broad and varied base of the tourism pyramid, in particular workers in the sector, small businesses and destinations, to take matters into their own hands to lead the way.
At the same time, he argued, international organizations including UNWTO, governments and local authorities must accompany the sector in its transformation, empower local people and ensure that everyone has a voice. in building a better future.
Rethinking tourism: a process already well underway
For Mr. Pololikashvili, rethinking tourism is certainly not an easy process, but it is already well under way, since the crisis has been an inspiration and a catalyst for creativity.
“The pandemic has accelerated the transformation of work, with its own set of challenges, but also offering many opportunities for the recovery of tourism to benefit an ever greater number of people. We have also made good progress in making tourism a central driver of the green, blue and digital economy, so that growth is not at the expense of people or the planet,” he explained.
And this is just the beginning, according to the UNWTO SG. “The potential of tourism is immense and our shared responsibility is that it materializes fully”, he hammered.
For his part, the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), António Guterres, underlined, in a message published on the WTO website, that the JMT is an opportunity to highlight the immense potential of tourism as an instrument of inclusion, nature protection and exchange between cultures.
A driver of sustainable development, tourism, which plays an essential role in social protection systems, the foundations of the resilience and prosperity of societies, promotes the education and emancipation of women and young people while stimulating socio-economic development. and cultural, noted Mr. Guterres.
He insisted on the need to invest in clean and sustainable tourism, reduce the energy footprint of the sector, adopt roadmaps towards zero emissions and protect biodiversity.
“We must create decent jobs and ensure that the profits generated are put to the service of destination countries and local populations. States, companies and consumers must adapt their practices taking into account the objectives of sustainable development and the imperative to limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius,” he said.
The future of the sector and the survival of many tourist destinations, especially small island developing states, depend on it, according to Mr. Guterres who indicated that a first major step was taken this year at the United Nations Conference. on the oceans, in which the international community and the tourism industry committed to develop a legally binding agreement on plastic pollution by 2024.
And to conclude: “There is no time to lose. Let’s reinvent tourism to build together a more sustainable, prosperous and resilient future for all”.
For this year, the official celebrations of the JMT will be held in Bali (Indonesia) on September 27th. They will highlight the growing recognition of tourism as a crucial pillar of development.