Imagine 1.8 Billion Advocates For Global Sustainability Through Tourism
International destinations attracted about 1.2 billion travelers last year, and the number of global travelers is expected to reach 1.8 billion in 2030. Imagine if this expanding multitude could be a positive force for a more sustainable world both on their travels and back at home.
We have an epic opportunity this year to spark change. As travelers, we can rally around the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development organized for 2017 by the World Tourism Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations.
I’m in Madrid, along with hundreds of corporate, government and nonprofit leaders from around the world to participate in the official launch of the International Year. The special UN initiative is focused on building awareness and promoting action in support of the global sustainable development goals. The goals cover some of the world’s most pressing issues, including poverty reduction, education and the environment. I am here because the UN views tourism as part of the answer, and in my role as CEO of the USA arm of Hostelling International, a vice chair of the UNWTO Affiliate Member group.
The UN defines sustainable tourism broadly, in terms of economic, social and environmental impacts, both current and future. That makes this brand of tourism different. For example, it aspires to advance environmentally sustainable practices, protect cultural and natural heritage, and even reduce poverty in tourist destinations.
We have a chance to help bring sustainable tourism to the mainstream and the opportunity for impact is massive. How big? A global survey of 100,000 travelers last year by Booking.com found that 65 percent said they hadn’t stayed or didn’t know if they had stayed in eco-friendly accommodations. And among those who didn’t plan on a stay in a sustainable accommodation, 39% said it was because they didn’t know sustainable accommodations exist.