The UNWTO has approved a framework convention on tourism ethics, which it said would ensure that tourism development was done with full respect for sustainable development, social issues, and local community development.
The news came as the organisation appointed Zurab Pololikashvili, current ambassador of Georgia to Spain, Morocco, Algeria and Andorra, as secretary general for the period between 2018 and 2021.
Commenting on the adoption of the code of ethics, secretary general Taleb Rifai said: “This is a historical moment for UNWTO. The approval of the Convention is a strong legacy of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development that we celebrate this year. It is also a strong sign that countries are committed to make tourism a force for a better future for all. It reinforces UNWTO institutional outreach in the UN system.”
The code included a ‘right to tourism’, whereby the “prospect of direct and personal access to the discovery and enjoyment of the planet’s resources constitutes a right equally open to all the world’s inhabitants; the increasingly extensive participation in domestic and international tourism should be regarded as one of the best possible expressions of the sustained growth of free time, and obstacles should not be placed in its way”.
“In an interconnected world where the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products or automobiles, it is important to set out a legal framework to ensure that growth is dealt with responsibly and that it can be sustained over time. Tourism is a power that must be harnessed for the benefit of all,” said the chairman of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics, Pascal Lamy.
This summer saw a number of protests against mass tourism, in cities including Barcelona and Venice. Rifai said that it should be emphasised that: “whilst local communities must be consulted and fully engaged in tourism planning, ‘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 misbehaviour of a small number of travellers do not represent a dearth of tourism ethics by the sector as a whole. It’s the failure of management not of the sector as such.
“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, as well as community development and progress needs, which would otherwise not be available. It also means that through meeting others we can broaden our horizons, open our minds and our hearts, improve our well-being and be better people. Shaping a better world .
“All the efforts of enterprise, government, civil society and travellers in the last decades to shape a more responsible and committed global tourism sector should not be in vain. We can and should be able to continue capitalising on the sector and its benefits in terms of job creation, economic development and cultural interaction, while curbing its negative effects and impacts.”
By 2030, the UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to reach 1.8 billion, meaning 5 million people will be crossing international borders for leisure, business or other purposes such as visiting friends and family every day. Arrival numbers reached 1.24 billion in 2016.
The UNWTO said that North East Asia would be the most visited subregion in the world by 2030, representing 16% of total arrivals and taking over from Southern and Mediterranean Europe, with a 15% share in 2030.
In accepting the role of secretary general, Pololikashvili said that the UNTWO should be focusing on “long-term challenges. Safety and security and climate change are key challenges but there are many other external factors affecting global travel and tourism. UNWTO should undertake serious steps to manage thematic platforms so that dialogue among decision-makers results in effective inter-sectorial coordination.
“As for opportunities, from my point of view, UNWTO should strengthen its expertise and prepare guidelines on management and marketing for various types of tourism destinations considering current technological advances, new business models and the rise of digital tourism.”
HA Perspective [by Katherine Doggrell]: The good times don’t last forever, is the current theme of the globalised world, with the Baby Boomers being eyed with malevolence by many who would like to be able to buy a house and have a pension. And with every super-light iPad Apple designs with them in mind, the gimlet eyes continue.
Travel plays heavily into this, as the UNWTO’s right to tourism points out, with the grey pound funding many a footloose retiree. But, as we saw this summer, it’s not just them. The rise of cheap airlines and the ever-swelling ranks of humanity has meant that Venice just isn’t big enough. It’s sinking already. The experience-driven Millennials are forecast to be on the hunt for ever-more exclusive locations to brag about on Instagram and not everywhere is as set up for infestation as Disneyland. Add in the housing issues which some cities claim are being caused by Airbnb and clearly steps are needed.
The rise of globalisation has meant more than money in the pockets of the masses for travel – it has meant that tourism is now the primary source of income for many cities, and the interests of residents have been swept aside to serve this.
The first attempt on the list to regain control in Venice and Barcelona is to restrict development and restrict entry, the latter through tariffs. The UNWTO encouraging tourists to visit beyond the central sights, diversifying tourist activities, reducing seasonality and addressing the needs of the local community. For those hotel operators looking to the more popular destinations to site their next property, ethics will have to be on the blueprint.