Blue Community Program Coastal Sustainability Best Practices

Leadership & Governance for Sustainable Tourism:

by Addaia Arizmendi, UNWTO 


Tourism, as we all know, is far more than tourism alone.

From infrastructure and communication to food production and transport, tourism’s considerable economic weight gives it the responsibility and the power to play a key role in the sustainable and responsible development of economies and societies.

Delivering on tourism’s huge potential is the Mandate of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations’ (UN) agency responsible for the promotion of tourism’s many benefits on societies and the economy.

Increasing tourism’s commitment to sustainable development is one of UNWTO’s priorities and, therefore, we are pleased to support this event.

Tourism has been a sector of consistently above-average growth for eight straight years, with 1.3 billion international tourist arrivals recorded in 2017.

The sector’s cross-cutting nature and wide global reach make it an effective tool to contribute to the achievement of all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, which chart our common action towards 2030.

The continued growth of tourism means more jobs, more competitive economies and better lives for citizens.

However, the sector’s colossal impacts must be managed sustainably to harness its positive effects without jeopardizing the environment.

The relationship between tourism and the environment is complex;

on the one hand, tourism depends on the world’s resources, ecosystems and biodiversity. A quality environment is the natural capital of tourism destinations.

On the other hand, tourism uses large quantities of natural resources and accounts for 5% of CO2 emissions.

Transport, aviation, accommodation and solid wastes are all generators of greenhouse gas emissions, that tourism directly impacts or contributes to.

This past Monday, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published a statement that the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, increasing the likelihood of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.

This date, which falls well within the lifetime of many people alive today, is based on current levels of greenhouse gas emissions. This needs to serve as a wake-up call for governments and businesses across the globe.

There is nothing opaque about this new data. The illustrations of mounting impacts, the fast-approaching and irreversible tipping points, are visions of a future that no policy-maker could wish to usher in or be responsible for.

Inversely, policy-makers have the chance to lead in addressing this by taking steps to transition to a low carbon economy that can sustain future generations.

There is no doubt that all tourism stakeholders need to make bold decisions today to achieve this.

This will require innovation, leadership and collaboration on best practices.

Tourism has the potential to lead the way if we can make the sector more responsible and conscious.

Tourism contributes directly or indirectly to achieving all of the sustainable development goals, and specifically to SDG8, SDG12 and SDG14, which are related with economic growth, responsible consumption and production, and sustainable use of oceans and marine life.

An economic powerhouse that represents 10% of world GDP, 30% of services exports, and 1 out of every 10 jobs in the world, tourism is the world’s third-largest export category.

As a sector that links to virtually all other economic sectors, tourism produces profound and wide-ranging impacts across all dimensions of sustainable development.

It offers significant prospects for women and youth; opportunities for developing states, rural areas and indigenous communities.

It has the potential to incentivize the conservation of environmental resources and cultural assets; and the capacity to spur interaction and understanding.

It is one of the most resilient sectors to crisis situations and can act as catalyst for environmental and cultural protection, and peace and reconciliation.

As the SDGs offer the world a new direction, sustainable tourism can and must play a significant role in delivering sustainable solutions for people, the planet, prosperity and peace.

In order to maximize tourism’s positive impacts and mitigate the negatives, policy-makers, businesses, tourists and a range of other tourism stakeholders must work together in a concerted way.

We need to work towards incentivizing, planning and delivering transformative tourism projects and initiatives to generate a sustainable impact.

Governments need to establish and enforce inclusive and integrated policy frameworks for sustainable tourism development;

businesses need to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability in core business models and value chains with enhanced action; and individuals and civil society need to advocate for, and adopt, consciously sustainable practices and behaviours.

At UNWTO, by advancing our work to step up innovation and digitalization, and by developing the Tourism for SDGs platform as a co-creation space for ideas and initiatives around achieving the SDGs, we are encouraging positive change in governance and business strategies towards the long-term sustainable development of tourism.

Deepening partnerships with the travel and tourism private sector, exemplified by Federturismo Confindustria, and inspiring public sector leadership like we see here with the Next Tourism Generation Alliance, are integral factors to our chances of making tourism an agent of positive, long-term change.

The SDGs and the commitment behind them, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, serves as the foundation for partnerships that work towards improving livelihoods, the environment and global peace.

One such partner is the One Planet network, helping to support partners accelerate the shift to sustainable consumption and production patterns across sectors – outlined in SDG 12 – through a global trust fund.

If the tourism sector harnesses innovation and strengthens partnerships that are grounded in commitment to positive change, it can decouple its growth from the use of finite natural resources to continue growing sustainably – and thus competitively.

In promoting the innovative, sustainable solutions and best practices that exist today, we can raise awareness of tourism’s real and positive impacts on the ground and inspire public decision makers and private companies to take action.

Tourism can help the SDGs deliver for people, planet and for peace, as well as for profit. To be of meaningful help the leadership of the private sector is just as important as government activism and regulatory support.

Here, at the anniversary of the Nature Village, I call upon you all to work with us to ensure your crucial contribution to a better future.



Arizmendi, A. (2019). Leadership & Governance for Sustainable Tourism:. Retrieved from


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