WTM sounds siren call on responsible tourism
EVEN as several destinations around the world concern themselves with bettering their facilities to bring in more tourists, often at the cost of the environment, World Travel Market has challenged the industry to change with the launch of World Responsible Tourism Day with the backing of the United Nations.
Says Fiona Jeffery, managing director, WTM, “This is the world’s most ambitious international day of industry action to help save the planet and change lives. It means the international travel industry can show en masse that it is actively making a difference in protecting environments, respecting local cultures, supporting local communities, conserving natural resources and minimising pollution.”
The initiative is being rolled out in association with the United Nations World Tourism Organization and has already attracted many high profile supporters, including the likes of Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson and international environmentalist David Bellamy.
“We see World Responsible Tourism Day as a logical outreach programme which each year will help carry our UN awareness program into action oriented initiatives,” UNWTO Assistant Secretary-General, Geoffrey Lipman, told media at the event.
Jeffery made the announcement at the official opening ceremony of what is one of the most important events on the travel industry’s calendar.
The first WTM World Responsible Tourism Day will be Wednesday, November 14, 2007, tying in with the event’s own annual dedicated day to responsible tourism. A comprehensive programme of events, workshops, seminars, debates will highlight action undertaken by the industry on the day itself.
“The international travel and tourism industry is already making an increasing contribution to responsible and sustainable tourism with many companies and organisations taking action. But more can and should be done,” says Jeffery. “There’s no industry in the world better placed to embrace a day that highlights the issues related to environment and corporate and social responsibility. WTM World Responsible Tourism Day is the first opportunity for travel and tourism to come together under a single unified goal.”
She said the annual event would be a chance to show the world that the moment has come to make a real difference, to preserve the planet’s natural glories and celebrate humanity’s cultural heritage.
However, she added, it was about more than just saving the planet. “We have a responsibility too to help local people wherever they might be, provide them with shelter, jobs, clean water, food and education. Protect them from exploitation, corruption and deceit. Offer them the right to a decent and dignified standard of living where the next generation can flourish in the knowledge that those before them have taken a sensible, responsible and meaningful approach to the world in which we live.”
She described the action individuals, destinations or trade bodies could take as either something modest such as planting a tree or an initiative that involves hundreds, even thousands, such as building several protected wells to give deprived children clean water.
These aspects are embodied in the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, approved by the UNWTO General Assembly in 1999, and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2001.
Supporters include the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the Pacific Asian Travel Association (PATA) and the International Centre for Responsible Tourism. Full details on how the industry can get involved are at www.wtmwrtd.com.
by Keith J Fernandez