Sustainability drive lands at WTO HQ

Tour Operators Initiative, the international network that encourages operators to commit themselves to supporting the sustainable development of tourism, has transferred its
Secretariat to the headquarters of the World Tourism Organization in Madrid.“This move opens up new and exciting possibilities
for our work,” said TOI chairman Tom Selanniemi. “The UNWTO network will
help open doors, especially to decision makers in tourism destinations,
which will greatly support the integration of the concept of
sustainability into tourism development”. Formerly based at the United
Nations Environment Programme in Paris, TOI was founded by a group of 15
major tour operators in 1999 with the backing of UNWTO, UNEP and UNESCO.
Since then it has grown to 20 companies from 11 countries and enlarged
its support base to include Conservation International and the WWF. UNEP
and UNESCO, full members of the Initiative, keep on actively supporting
the TOI by providing the Initiative with guidance and technical advice.
TOI’s aims are to:

. help destinations to benefit socially, economically and culturally
from tourism development . ensure that the economic benefits are
equitably shared by all stakeholders . encourage and catalyze
initiatives and efforts to achieve sustainable tourism development
across all sectors of the tourism industry; and . promote changes in the
behaviour of consumers from tourist generating countries that are
conducive to sustainability. 
A voluntary, non-profit organization, open to tour operators throughout
the world, regardless of their size and geographical location, it
carries out work in five key areas: . Research and information, to
explore and share ideas and practices on environmental, socio-economic
and cultural topics; . Capacity building, to assist TOI members and
other tour operators in putting into practice sustainable development
and management principles through publications, workshops, conferences
and training; . Technical support for members in their commitment to the
sustainable development of tourism; . Communication, to increase
awareness of priority issues and raise the visibility of the Initiative
among key players in the tourism sector; and . Outreach, to open direct
dialogues with other tour operators and tourism stakeholders.

Welcoming TOI to Madrid, UNWTO’s Head of Sustainable Development,
Eugenio Yunis said: “In their designing of holiday packages, and with
their direct influence on the tourism supply chain, tour operators have
a unique opportunity to exercise great influence on the level and type
of tourism development that is carried out around the world.

“As the United Nations General Assembly has clearly stressed, tourism
has an important role to play in eradicating poverty, advancing economic
and social development, contributing to the conservation of natural and
cultural environments and improving the quality of life for all peoples,
as well as in promoting international peace and understanding.”