Tourism has the power to drive economic transformation, and it’s a mission that could not be more urgent as the world sits at the tipping point of the climate emergency
The latest data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization make it clear that tourism’s recovery from the impacts of the pandemic has been remarkable, despite it being one of the most affected sectors. Worldwide, international tourist numbers are set to be close to, or even above, 2019 levels, providing a much-needed boost for businesses, economies and communities, both within and outside of the G20. It is essential that we make tourism’s return count.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide the blueprint for growth that is sustainable, resilient and inclusive. Since their launch, we have made good progress, driven in no small part by the G20 economies. However, we remain off track to fully achieve this shared vision for a better future. As India’s G20 presidency has rightly identified, accelerating our progress towards the SDGs must be our priority. Tourism can – and must – be part of the solution. UNWTO, in partnership with the Indian presidency and the Tourism Working Group, has developed the Goa Roadmap for Tourism as a vehicle for achieving the SDGs. This action plan works towards making the sector greener, more inclusive and innovative, and driven by a skilled workforce, dynamic small businesses and enhanced international cooperation.
Working together is the only way to address the interconnected challenges we face and accelerate progress towards achieving our goals. Since we launched the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism in 2021, more than 800 businesses and National Tourism Administrations have signed up to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. Similarly, the initiatives of the One Planet Tourism Programme, which UNWTO is proud to lead, enjoy widespread support, allowing us to accelerate our shift to a circular economy. In terms of innovation, we have seen massive interest from all regions in our innovation work during recent years. With micro, small and medium-sized enterprises making up as much as 98% of all businesses in some G20 economies, it is vital we support those enterprises in their green and digital transformations, to deliver new jobs and just transitions.
AN IMPORTANT INITIATIVE
However, we can only progress if we measure our full impact. The G20 economies can lead by example. The Statistical Framework for Measuring the Sustainability of Tourism, developed by UNWTO, with the support of the UN Statistics Division, will be presented to the United Nations next year. We need you to get behind this important initiative. With the leadership and collaboration of the G20 economies, we can take the next essential step forward in achieving economic, social and environmental sustainability in tourism.
At the same time, tourism needs more and better-targeted investment to fulfil its unique potential to contribute to all the SDGs. Far too often, projects with the potential to deliver greater sustainability never get off the ground. This is notably the case in those developing countries where tourism has strong links across their economy. On 27 September, we will celebrate World Tourism Day on the theme of Tourism and Green Investments. It will be a global call to action for every stakeholder in tourism, including the G20 economies, to ensure our sector gets exactly the right level of investment it needs to make good on its sustainability commitments.
Our mission could not be more urgent. We find ourselves at the tipping point of the climate emergency. July 2023 was the hottest year on record, and the extreme weather events experienced in every global region this year could soon become the new normal. We also find ourselves getting ever closer to 2030, the end point for achieving the SDGs. Our promise to build a better world for all is in peril. But it is not too late. The G20 economies must continue to lead by example, including through giving tourism the financial and practical support it clearly needs to firstly adapt to the changing climate and then achieve long-term transformation, the benefits of which will be felt far outside of the sector itself.