The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) works to ensure that the tourism industry—one of the largest worldwide industries and one that many countries are deeply reliant on — is run in a responsible and sustainable way. Achieving this goal requires a multifaceted approach. Many tourist operations seek to demonstrate rich natural and environmental beauty, but they may also put those environments at risk of degradation. Furthermore, fair labor and a level playing field are also critically important for promoting sustainable industry growth that benefits all participants. Universal access to tourist destinations is also important, as the world’s natural beauty deserves to be seen by all people. The UNWTO works closely with governments and labor organizations to promote and share sustainable practices to achieve these goals.
Topic A: Protecting Child Welfare in Travel and Tourism
Since 1995, international tourist arrivals have increased from 527 million to 1.4 billion per year. Unfortunately, this growth has been accompanied by the equally rapid development of child exploitation in the form of child labor, child sexual exploitation, and human trafficking. In addition, children are impeded from accessing food, education, and opportunity. Tourism is not always a direct cause of child exploitation, but as globalization continues, children in all regions of the world become more vulnerable to harmful practices. However, when tourism is a key source of income, there is often a reluctance to threaten economic livelihood by a meaningful crackdown on child exploitation. The well-being of children is not, however, an acceptable sacrifice for development, and UNWTO maintains that the tourism sector must disentangle itself from the pitfalls of child exploitation in order to become a positive, sustainable industry.
Topic B: Tourism, Climate Change, and Sustainable Development
An ever-increasing flow of tourists is causing greater and greater strain on the natural resources of host countries. If the world is to achieve the IPCC and SDG targets for sustainable development, it is imperative for the tourism industry to evaluate its impact on global climate change. UNWTO defines sustainable tourism as that which makes proper use of environmental resources, respects the authenticity of host communities, and ensures viable long-term operations. The implications of climate change for tourism are vast. Sea-level rise and ocean acidification endanger coastlines and tourism infrastructure, decreasing levels of biodiversity threaten ecotourism, and the industry contributes to alarming levels of greenhouse gas emissions. In regions where tourism is a key economic activity, water consumption and allocation may exceed what the environment can provide. However, there is significant potential within sustainable development to mitigate tourism’s more harmful effects while bringing about a greater appreciation for our shared environment, in addition to increased economic benefits. UNWTO stresses the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism and strives to make it more sustainable. With the renewed commitment of member states, UNWTO can guide the sustainable development of the tourism industry.