The $1.2 trillion travel industry, which moves more than a billion international travelers around the globe each year, has both the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute to cleaner, greener and more respectful travel practices, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
And with that in mind, for 2017 the organization has launched a yearlong “Travel. Enjoy. Respect.” campaign aimed at educating travelers about how to reduce their environmental impact.
“Global tourism is really big business … but sustainable tourism still only represents a small fraction of the global industry,” said Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of the UNWTO, which declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
According to the UNWTO, tourism generates an estimated 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and tourists consume much more water while on vacation than they do at home. With the number of global tourists expected to reach 1.6 billion by 2020, issues such as waste generation at resorts and on cruise ships, overfishing on coral reefs to feed visitors and the impact of the ballooning global travel industry on local cultures is cause for concern, the organization said.
Thus the UNWTO is working to inspire a sea change in the travel industry, a message that appears to be resonating with some travel companies that have responded by committing to changing the way they do business.