3rd Global Summit on Peace through Tourism

October 3, 2005


Draft of 15 September, 2005

Role of the World’s Largest Industry in Contributing to the

UN Millenium Development Goals



Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

IUCN, Tthe World Conservation Union, is delighted to address this important conference – the Third Global Summit on Peace through Tourism.

IUCN brings together States, Government Agencies agencies, institutions and a diverse range of non-governmental organizations in a unique world partnership. We have over 1,000 members spread across some 140 countries contributing to our mission which is: "to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable".

Through its six thematic Commissions, IUCN draws on more than 10,000 of the world’s leading experts on, among other things, species, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management. IUCN operations are increasingly being decentralized and are carried forward by an expanding network of regional and country offices, located primarily in developing countries.

At a time when rapid and unprecedented global changes hasve become the norm, IUCN is paying increasing attention to tourism as one of the main drivers of change. Last month, change was also on the agenda as world leaders convened in New York at the United Nations Summit of Global Heads of State – the largest ever such gathering in UN the history. This summit focused world attention on the urgent need to reduce poverty and to resolve conflicts, particularly within the context of achieving the UN's ambitious Millennium Development Goals.

Tourism and, in particular, the topic of this conference - Peace though Tourism - are directly relevant to these challenges. Why is this the case ? What is the relevance of tourism to the broader issues of sustainable development and poverty alleviation ?

These questions can be answered by reviewing some statistics. Tourism and related activities now contribute to over 10 % of global GDP and over 8% of global employment . Tourism is the world’s largest industry contributing to approximately 6 per cent% of worldwide exports of goods and services. When considering service exports exclusively, the share of tourism exports increases to nearly 30 per cent% . In general, the growth of international tourism significantly outpaces the growth of global Gross Domestic Product. We have seen recently the tremendous impact that the loss of tourist facilities can have on communities and local, regional and national budgets following the Asian tsunami, and how long lasting these effects can be.

Clearly, tourism has major influence and impact. This is an industry which can positively or negatively impact the world’s economy, environment, and culture, in a very significant way.

Within the tourism sector, nature based tourism or and the important sub-sector, ecotourism is are expanding rapidly. For example, Alaska has experienced strong growth in tourism in recent years, with 46% of all international visitors engaging in wildlife viewing. In the USA wildlife viewing is the third highest reason for travel after sightseeing and visiting friends and family (Outdoor Recreation Life, 1999). In Australia the number of people undertaking commercial whale watching has doubled in the past decade (Tourism NSW), 2000); nature-based activities are in the top 6six activities for all international visitors in NSW, with 53% visiting public gardens, 51% visiting national parks and 48% wildlife viewing. In Thailand, the very recent listing of the World Heritage Site of the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai National Park complex is expected to raise the area's prominence both internationally and locally and to increase visitation levels. Further growth in ecotourism is expected will occur over the coming decades as leisure time, mobility and environmental awareness increase. Ecotourism is largely, but not exclusively, based in and around the world’s protected areas including – wilderness areas, national parks, wilderness areas, species protection areas and and community and privately managed protected areas. The Vth IUCN World Parks Congress, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2003, reviewed progress with the world’s protected areas and noted that the countries of the world have now established more than 11.5% of the earth’s surface as in some category of protected area. The Congress Patron, Her Majesty Queen Noor, noted this as "one of the most significant collective land use decisions in history" and further noted that such areas "protect our ecosystems, providing clean air and clean water…thus making a major contribution to sustainable development". Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand fully supported this statement in her message to participants at the opening of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, held last November in Bangkok.

There has been much discussion of the positive and negative elements of tourism. The benefit side of the equation is clear. Tourism creates incomes, jobs and investments, such as in relation to tourism infrastructure, and can, if carefully managed, make a major contribution to poverty alleviation, conservation and sustainable development. Tourism also offers educational opportunities for local people as part of capacity building, and for visitors who learn to respect and protect natural and cultural heritage. Tourism can also foster cultural exchange between the peoples of the world – thus directly contributing to "peace through tourism" - the goal of this conference.

There is also a flip side. Unplanned and unregulated tourism can cause many negative impacts such as environmental degradation, and can negatively impact on the livelihoods of poor people through inequitable use of natural resources; displacement from fertile coastal land; and loss of habitat for food sources such as mangroves. Through loss of resources and reduced availability of cheap and nutritious food supplies, tourism can drive poverty deeper into poor communities. The detrimental effects of tourism have often been less visible due to their indirect nature of many of them. Regionally, millions of poor people depend on rivers, wetlands and the coastal seas to provide their plant and animal protein. Too often we see these particularly vulnerable systems degraded by ill-conceived tourism developments. Nevertheless, the hidden costs of tourism exist and are intensifying. In fact, the industry’s increasing complexity, and the numerous and significant changes it is experiencing, are reinforcing these adverse effects. Negative environmental impacts can undermine the health of ecosystems, which are vital to both human well being and to the tourist industry itself. Recent research by IUCN and others has shown the clear link between healthy ecosystems and the reduction of poverty and thus tourism is a key factor that must be considered in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. It is essential that ecotourism is managed in a way that fully recognizes these costs so that it is developed at all levels of government to keep it sustainable and to maintain the integrity and sustainability of the ecosystems on which it depends.

From a socio-economic perspective, poorly planned tourism can widen the poverty gap; particularly when tourism revenues remain in, or return to, the richer countries of tourist and investor origin rather than remaining in developing countries. While negative ecological and social impacts are often very localized, leakage of economic benefits is also common and significant. Often the benefits from tourism do not return to local communities in and around tourist destinations. Communities can, in fact, be negatively impacted financially disadvantaged by tourism through the use of imported labor, goods and services, price increases, and the exclusion of local businesses and environmental degradation.

Other challenges facing the tourist industry in relation to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals include the risks of over-dependence on mass tourism, tourism’s seasonal nature, and the diversion of funds away from the essential services of health and education to meet tourism infrastructure demands.

With tourism growing and spreading faster than most other industries in the world, IUCN advocates advocates actively linking biodiversity conservation to tourism planning and management. IUCN notes that many of the previously mentioned negative impacts can be addressed by better planning and management, particularly by ensuring that environmental and social factors are carefully considered at all stages of tourism planning and also by ensuring the needs of local communities are factored into tourism planning.

The world’s tourist industry is in a critical position to direct future global changes towards economic, social, and environmental sustainability and, consequently, address the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG). To realize this objective, the tourism industry must embrace an approach based on environmental sustainability and must steer its development process away from activities which undermine ecosystem health and viability.

Tourism is very closely connected to the Millennium Declaration and to the resulting eight Millennium Development Goals, to which UN members have committed by the year 2015. The tourist industry has the power to channel its growth towards fulfilling the MDGs or it can become a major obstacle towards their achievement. Human development and poverty alleviation are at the core of the Millennium Declaration. Similarly, human wellbeing, in the form of tourist satisfaction, is at the core of global tourism. Biodiversity conservation and environmental protection are the links needed to bridge the gap between tourism development and poverty alleviation. Mainstreaming environmental sustainability within the tourism sector will ensure that the impacts of tourist activities do not endanger the support systems necessary for the industry’s survival.

The MDGs are closely interrelated. For example, MDG 7’s focus on environmental sustainability cannot be separated from MDG 1’s goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. MDG 7 is at the core of short and long term sustainable tourism due to its direct and indirect contributions. Its application within tourist development will contribute towards the achievement of the other MDGs. For example, MDG 7’s focus on environmental sustainability cannot be separated from MDG 1’s goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Neither tourism nor biodiversity conservation can be isolated from human needs. Environmental sustainability can also contribute indirectly towards the achievement of MDGs 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, which respectively address the need for universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating major infectious diseases respectively. The tourism sector can capitalize on this domino effect by investing in ecosystem protection and, concurrently, boosting tourism satisfaction while contributing towards the MDGs. For example, by incorporating watershed protection into its activities and minimizing the alteration of natural hydrological cycles, the tourist sector can have a direct impact on child mortality by increasing access to safe drinking water (MDG 4). Similarly, given that often poor rural women are those most heavily involved with tourism, actively involving them in related activities can lead towards more equitable benefit-sharing (MDG 3).

MDG 7, with its goal of ensuring environmental sustainability, leads the way along this path. Environmental sustainability is the key for the tourist sector because a healthy natural resource base is essential for a viable tourism industry. Consequently, incorporating the principles of sustainable development into tourism initiatives can ensure a win-win situation. Such an approach has the potential to minimize the environmental impact of tourism operations, improve financial returns to tourism operators and contribute to poverty reduction. "Is it environmentally sustainable?" should be the question asked for all tourist development activity.

How is this to be achieved in reality? Firstly a change in attitude and approach will be required on the part of the tourism and the environment sectors if this is to be achieved. This change must involve a willingness on the part of the tourism sector to incorporate environmental considerations into the planning and implementing of projects at and in the early earliest stages – such approaches can be built on the knowledge existing within networks such as IUCN’s Tourism Task Force which has been active in promoting best practice in the implementation of tourism activities in and around protected areas.

This change also must involve a willingness on the part of the environment sector to work in a more effective and cooperative way with the tourism sector. A fundamental requirement is the need to open up channels for dialogue and co-operation.

This change must involve a willingness on all sides to work more closely and cooperatively with local communities and indigenous peoples – it is essential that they receive tangible benefits from tourist activities on as wide a basis as practicable.

In Southern Africa we can see the application of these approaches in reality – with the commitment by the Governments of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe to jointly develop the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. This landmark initiative - which links national parks and protected areas in these three countries – has a strong focus on promotion of tourism through better management of shared ecosystems and of ensuring that local communities benefits from tourist activities. The initiative is marked by close cooperation across national borders and also by close co-operation within national borders – particularly between tourism and environmental agencies. It is based on a recognition that tourism, when carefully planned, is good for the both the economy and the environment.

In conclusion summary, IUCN believes that by adopting environmental sustainability, the tourist industry will ensure that its impacts become a positive, self-sustaining loop rather than a self-destructive one. Given the numerous competing pressures involved in tourism development, the task involves a delicate balancing act. This requires careful planning in government and industry if tourism benefits are to be realized in the long-term. There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to the challenge of future global tourism. Furthermore, although ecotourism is a valuable instrument for sustainable tourism, it should not be confused with sustainable development. Incorporating sustainability into all aspects of tourism development is key. The goal is to decrease the negative impacts of tourist activities, while working towards increasing the quality and positive socio-economic effects of tourism through ecosystem conservation, biodiversity protection and social equity. Together we can do this at the international, regional, national and local levels. IUCN, The World Conservation Union, looks forward to working with you.

Thank you very much for your attention.