The 17th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly opens with the United Nations body for tourism promoting links between tourism and the UN Millennium Development Goals and dealing with the issues of climate change.Climate change is already affecting the tourism sector and certain destinations in particular. At the same time, tourism itself contributes to the greenhouse gas effect, largely through the transport of tourists to their destinations.
That the sector has to mitigate its greenhouse gas emissions and adapt tourism businesses and destinations to changes in weather patterns was acknowledged among the conclusions of the Second International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism held in Davos, Switzerland, in October and again by the Tourism Ministerial Summit, held in London only two weeks ago.
The General Assembly in Cartagena de Indias is looking to consider the outcomes of these events, which will clearly influence the future work of UNWTO and how tourism’s public and private stakeholders factor global warming into their policies and strategies.
It is clear that tourism has a significant role to play in pressing issues on the global agenda, as was demonstrated at the UNWTO Conference on Religions and Dialogue of Cultures held in Cordoba, Spain, in October.
Ranging from the twin challenges of poverty alleviation and climate response, to fostering international understanding, all this implies a broad agenda and increased workload for the UNWTO Secretariat.
At the same time, the political awareness of tourism’s role and position in society is clearly on the rise.
This is reflected in the increasing membership of the Organization and the activities included in its programme of work, as well as the obligations involved with its new status as a specialized agency of the United Nations.