World Tourism Day 2020 - Tourism and Rural Development

“Tourism and Rural Development” is the theme of World Tourism Day 2020.

  • 07:01 AM, 28 Sep, 2020

Celebrated every 27 September since 1980, the 40th anniversary comes as tourism confronts the biggest challenge in its history. The importance of tourism as an economic sector - with an unmatched value chain and deep social footprint - has become even more evident over recent months.

UNWTO has led the global response to this challenge and united its Member States, the tourism sector, and the UN system to face up to the pandemic. As part of the United Nations family, UNWTO is happy to see how World Tourism Day also contributes to this year’s 75th anniversary of the UN. WTD and UN75 meet, so that tourism comes back stronger and leaves no one behind, by growing back better, becoming more sustainable and offering more innovative solutions to the biggest challenges of our time.

For the past 40 years, World Tourism Day has highlighted the power of tourism to touch on almost every part of our societies. Right now, this message is more important than ever. 

The theme of World Tourism Day 2020 - Tourism and Rural Development - is particularly relevant as we face up to an unprecedented crisis.

Message by the UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili

Tourism has proven to be a lifeline for many rural communities. However, its true force still needs to be fully deployed. The sector is not just a leading source of employment, particularly for women and youth, it also provides opportunities for territorial cohesion and socio-economic inclusion for the most vulnerable regions.

Tourism helps rural communities hold onto their unique natural and cultural heritage, supporting conservation projects, including those safeguarding endangered species, lost traditions or flavours. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. Our sector is among the hardest hit with millions of jobs at risk.

As we join forces to restart tourism, we must live up to our responsibility to ensure that tourism’s benefits are shared by all. This crisis is an opportunity to rethink the tourism sector and its contribution to the people and planet; an opportunity to build back better towards a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient tourism.

Placing rural development at the heart of tourism policies through education, investment, innovation and technology can transform the livelihoods of millions, preserve our environment and our culture. As the ultimate cross-cutting sector, tourism contributes directly or indirectly to all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Harnessing tourism as a driver of rural development will keep the global community on track to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our ambitious plan for people and planet.

As we mark the 75 years of the United Nations, it is time to really fulfil tourism’s massive potential, including its unique ability to drive development for rural communities, backing up our pledge to leave nobody behind.

 UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili (top)

Special Message by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

In the 40 years since the very first World Tourism Day, much has changed. Demand for travel has soared. The world has opened up, allowing more people than ever to explore the globe and its different cultures.

Today, tourism is firmly established in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an engine for advancing prosperity, protecting our planet and laying the foundations for peace and understanding among peoples.

Many millions of people around the world rely on tourism for income, especially women and young people.  People who might otherwise have been left behind have found decent work and the chance of a better life thanks to tourism’s unique potential.

Tourism has suffered enormously during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some 120 million jobs are at risk.  The impacts could lead to the loss of between 1.5 and 2.8 per cent of the global GDP. This will particularly affect the most vulnerable countries, including Small Island Developing States, the Least Developed Countries, and many African nations, where tourism can represent between 30 and 80 percent of exports.

As we look to recover from this profound crisis, the safe restart of tourism is essential, not least for rural development – the focus of this year’s World Tourism Day.  We have an unprecedented opportunity to transform the relationship of the tourism sector with people, nature, the climate and the economy.  We must ensure a fair distribution of its benefits and advance the transition to a carbon-neutral and resilient tourism economy,

As well as providing opportunities for people, tourism can play an important role in preserving our unique and shared cultures and protecting the biodiversity and the ecosystems that sustain us.

In this most challenging year, let us focus on tourism’s importance for people living in rural areas, so we can deliver on the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals to leave nobody behind.

     Secretary-General, António Guterres

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