UNAI Presents Digital Discussion Series on Sustainable Tourism

The year 2017 has been designated as the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations. Aligning with this focus, the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) will publish a new digital discussion series on sustainable tourism. The relations between sustainable tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be the major topics of discussions of this series. Sustainable tourism, as defined by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), is tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.

This discussion series feature podcast interviews with Kelly Bricker, Professor and Director of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism at the University of Utah, USA, and Diane Lion Giustiniani, manager of Bambu Indah Hotel, Bali, Indonesia.

Sustainable tourism has gained in popularity over the past decade. Concerns about sustainability in the tourism industry have risen due to the negative impacts of tourism to the environment. Transportation, accommodation and attractions are three major tourism components that contribute to climate change. According to the UNWTO, the transportation sector, including air, car and rail, generates the largest proportion (around 75%) of all emissions caused by tourism. The second largest contributor is the accommodation sector, which accounts for approximately 20% of emissions from tourism. This involves heating, air-conditioning and the maintenance of bars, pools, restaurants etc. Finally, tourist attractions such as museums and theme parks contribute to about 3.5% of emissions (http://sdt.unwto.org/content/faq-climate-change-and-tourism).

In 2014, United Nations Member States adopted by consensus resolution 69/233 on “Promotion of sustainable tourism, including ecotourism, for poverty eradication and environment protection”. The resolution highlights the importance of policies, guidelines and regulations for promoting sustainable tourism. It also calls on the United nations to promote sustainable tourism as a tool for achieving global development goals. Tourism is listed among the targets of the SDGs, including SDG 8 (Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all) and SDG 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns).

The inclusion of tourism in the SDGs implies that the sector has the potential to support the three economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainability. In the economic sector, tourism can create jobs and expand economic opportunities. In the social sector, tourism can promote and help preserve the cultural heritage of a destination.In the environmental sector, tourism can actually serve to combat climate change.

Sustainable tourism is a goal that requires multi-stakeholder partnerships between governments, the public and private sectors, and international organizations. Its inclusion in the SDGs has given rise to hope and optimism for its realization. The UNAI digital discussion series will address  such questions: What can we do to support sustainable tourism? What are the major challenges? What kinds of partnerships would be effective to achieve this goal? What is the future of sustainable tourism?

We invite you to join the conversation on social media using @ImpactUN. We look forward to hearing your views on our discussion and your insights on sustainable tourism.