Today, more than ever, tourism across world has been devastated. Today is World Tourism Day, a day dedicated global tourism. The day has been celebrated since 1980 on September 27 because it was on this date in 1970 that the Statutes of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation or the UNWTO were adopted. Considered a milestone for global tourism, the purpose of the day is to raise awareness on the role of tourism within the international community and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.
In 1997 at its 12th session in Istanbul, the UNWTO General Assembly decided to designate a host country each year to act as the Organization’s partner to celebrate World Tourism Day. In 2003, in Beijing, it was decided to follow a geographical order starting from 2006 and it would be rotated between Europe, South Asia, Americas, Africa and the Middle East. The idea of the World Tourism Day was mooted by the late Ignatius Amaduwa Atigbi, a Nigerian who was finally recognised for his contribution in 2009. The timing of World Tourism Day is particularly appropriate in that it comes at the end of the high season in the northern hemisphere and the beginning of the season in the southern hemisphere. The colour of World Tourism Day is Blue.
Over the decades, tourism has experienced continued growth and deepening diversification to become one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world. Modern tourism is closely linked to development and encompasses a growing number of new destinations. These dynamics have turned tourism into a key driver for socio-economic progress. Today, the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products or automobiles. Tourism has become one of the major players in international commerce, and represents at the same time one of the main income sources for many developing countries. This growth goes hand in hand with an increasing diversification and competition among destinations. This global spread of tourism in industrialised and developed states has produced economic and employment benefits in many related sectors – from construction to agriculture or telecommunications.
The contribution of tourism to economic well-being depends on the quality and the revenues of the tourism offer. Tourism has the potential to contribute, directly or indirectly, to all of the Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, it has been included as targets in Goals 8, 12 and 14 on inclusive and sustainable economic growth, sustainable consumption and production and the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources, respectively. Sustainable tourism is firmly positioned in the 2030 Agenda. Achieving this agenda, however, requires a clear implementation framework, adequate financing and investment in technology, infrastructure and human resources.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive social and economic impact. Both developed and developing economies have been hit. And marginalized groups and the most vulnerable have been hit hardest of all. The restart of tourism will help kickstart recovery and growth. It is essential that the benefits this will bring are enjoyed widely and fairly. International tourist arrivals have dropped drastically in 2021, down 85% from data sourced between January and May this year.
Therefore, the theme of the 2021 World Tourism Day has been to focus on Tourism for Inclusive Growth. This is an opportunity to look beyond tourism statistics and acknowledge that, behind every number, there is a person. The host country for 2021 is Cote d’Ivoire who will be celebrating tourism’s ability to drive inclusive development and the role it plays in promoting respect while generating opportunities for many millions across the globe.
I for one, am waiting for the end in sight and can’t wait to start travelling again, as I am sure almost everyone reading this is. So, let’s all do our part so we can start getting our fix again!