The official 2010 World Tourism Day (WTD)
celebrations held on Monday in Guangzhou, China, have underscored
the need for increased action by the global tourism sector - as
one of the world’s leading economic activities - towards the
preservation of biological diversity.
Jointly organized by UNWTO, the China National
Tourism Administration (CNTA) and Guangdong Province, WTD
celebrations brought together government representatives from
around the world, leading biodiversity researchers, and private
A High Level Dialogue on Tourism, Biodiversity
and Sustainable Development was convened as the central event of
WTD, under the 2010 WTD theme ‘Tourism and Biodiversity’, to
coincide with the UN International Year of Biodiversity. As such,
the dialogue provided an important platform from which to debate
how tourism can contribute positively to biodiversity conservation
and the quality of life of local populations, while minimizing
potentially negative environmental and social impacts.
“We are delighted that the official World
Tourism Day 2010 celebrations are being held in China, one of the
world’s leading tourism destinations and a country rich in
biodiversity,” said Shao Qiwei, Chairman of CNTA, opening the
dialogue. “China has identified tourism as a strategic pillar of
its national economic policy and is committed to its sustainable
development, including the responsible use of environmental
Calling on the tourism sector to generate
momentum and accelerate progress towards the conservation and
sustainable use of biodiversity, UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb
Rifai, underlined the value of life on Earth to the long-term
sustainability of tourism.
“Biodiversity is at risk on a global scale. Yet
the very future of tourism – the millions it employs around the
world and its socio-economic contribution to growth and
development – depends on the protection and conservation of this
biodiversity,” he said.
Leading tourism and biodiversity experts were
quick to agree that biodiversity is one of tourism’s most valuable
assets. This is especially the case for developing countries,
where the largest proportion of global biodiversity can be found
and biodiversity-based tourism can make a valuable contribution to
Among the main conclusions coming out of the
panel discussion was the need for the tourism sector to assume a
collective responsibility for conserving biological diversity and
implementing global targets, including government, the private
sector, intergovernmental organizations and civil society.
While the public sector must establish a
supportive policy framework and favorable conditions for the
sustainable development of tourism, integrating tourism in
national biodiversity plans, it is the responsibility of the
private sector to implement objectives and assess their
performance. This is also relevant for the long-term economic
success of tourism enterprises.
The importance of local community involvement in
sustainable tourism development and operation was also underlined.
While governments and companies must take the lead, participants
argued, it is only through engaging and involving with the local
community that tourism can truly be developed in a sustainable
manner. The benefits of developing sustainable tourism, namely
decent work and income opportunities, can provide a strong
incentive for communities to protect their natural heritage. To
ensure this, wealth generated from biodiversity-based tourism
products must be fairly and equitably shared at the local level,
increasing local participation in the tourism value chain.
The conclusions coming out of the dialogue will
be crafted into the document ‘Guangzhou Recommendations’ and
officially presented by UNWTO at the upcoming tenth meeting of the
Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological
Diversity (COP10) (18-29 October, Nagoya, Japan).
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