New Campaign Launched by UNWTO for Sustainable Tourism Practices

Melaka, Malaysia

In the framework of the International Year on Sustainable Tourism for Development, 2017, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is launching a consumer-oriented campaign aimed at raising awareness of the value and contribution that sustainable tourism can make towards development. The ‘Travel.Enjoy.Respect’ campaign wants to engage tourists in making the sector a catalyst for positive change.

The main message of the campaign is summarized by the UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai: “Whenever you travel, wherever you travel, remember to: respect nature, respect culture, and respect your host. You can be the change you want to see in the world. You can be an ambassador for a better future. TRAVEL, ENJOY AND RESPECT.

A sustainable tourism sector is one that promotes environmental preservation and protection of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, but more importantly, it promotes engagement, commitment and respect for local communities.

The campaign is launched at a time of rising “tourism-phobia” in many places around the world. The phenomenon is particularly true in Europe where tourists are sometimes facing hostility from locals. However, many destinations in ASEAN could also be affected if nothing is done to curb the trend. Among cities which have been “Disneylandised” for the sake of tourism are places such as Melaka (Malaysia), Hoi An (Vietnam), Kampong Glam or Little India districts in Singapore, Pai (Thailand) or Siem Reap (Cambodia).

The degraded image of tourism is due to the impression that the travel activity takes its toll over locals’ lifestyle with negative effects being perceptible. Many locals blame today the gentrification of city centres as they are turned into tourist destinations,  rising rentals due to the development of hotels and sharie-apartments formulas such as AirB&B. The deterioration of the quality of life is also perceived as a consequence of overcrowded places and rising pollution.

Said Taleb Rifai: “Growth is not the enemy. Growing numbers are not the enemy.  Growth is the eternal story of mankind. Tourism growth can and should lead to economic prosperity, jobs and resources to fund environmental protection and cultural preservation”.

“Yet ensuring that tourism is an enriching experience for visitors and hosts alike, demands strong, sustainable tourism policies, practices, and the engagement of national ,as well as local governments and administrations, private sector companies, local communities and tourists themselves”, highlighted UNWTO General Secretary.

The sector needs regulations and clear guidelines, but not ones that would curb growth. Rather, regulations that ensure its sustainable management and sustainable growth actions that help such as:

  1. Diversify visitor activities; both in type and location.
  2. Effective and integrated mechanisms and policies to manage visitors at sites;
  3. Policies to reduce seasonality;
  4. Incentives for the private sector to invest in new areas and new products,
  5. Incentives and policies to reduce energy and water consumption and address other community needs, shortcomings and deficits.

Local communities must be consulted and fully engaged in tourism planning. According to UNWTO, ‘tourism-phobia’ on the part of citizens is largely a result of the failure to manage the growth in a sustainable manner. The wrongdoing of illegal companies, damage to marine and terrestrial ecosystems or mis-behaviour of a small number of travellers do not represent a dearth of tourism ethics by the sector as a whole

Added Rifai:  “Every growing human activity has a downside to it. The answer should never be to halt the activity, and lose all it’s clear benefits, but rather to live up to the challenge and manage it correctly .This is the real challenge. We should ensure that our conviction to improve the sector is today stronger than ever. Otherwise, the value of the sector will naturally be lost and contested”.

The TRAVEL, ENJOY AND RESPECT campaign, which will run in various languages and outlets around the world, includes a manual of ‘Tips for a Responsible Traveller’, developed by the World Committee on Tourism Ethics in line with the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism. The manual provides travellers with a set of recommendations to help them make responsible choices when travelling and have a positive impact on the destinations they visit.

“Today more than ever, ensuring that tourism is an enriching experience for visitors and hosts alike,” added Mr. Rifai.

The message will reach consumers through campaign supporters including among others CNN International, the Government of Andorra, the Madrid City Council, Iberia, the Spanish National Railways System (Renfe), Minube, PR MEDIACO, Cleverdis and Air Mauritius.

Destinations and companies from around the world are invited to join the campaign and celebrate the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development with a commitment from the sector to ‘TRAVEL, ENJOY AND RESPECT’.