UNWTO Report Links Sustainable Tourism to 17 SDGs
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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The report describes tourism as a driver of sustainable development, and explains that tourism benefits economic growth, quality of life, environmental protection, diverse cultural heritage and world peace.

The report highlights action areas and makes recommendations for governments, businesses and individuals.

Among others, the publication recommends that: governments establish and enforce inclusive and integrated policy frameworks for sustainable tourism development; businesses demonstrate their commitment to sustainability in core business models and value chains with enhanced action; and individuals and civil society advocate for and adopt consciously sustainable practices and behaviors.

6 June 2018: The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has published a two-volume report titled, ‘Tourism for Development,’ that makes recommendations on the ways in which tourism could contribute to sustainable development and the SDGs, and illustrates the global reach and positive effects of tourism on other sectors.

The publication aims to increase awareness of tourism’s role in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and of the need to integrate sustainability into tourism policies, business practices and tourist behavior. Describing tourism as a driver of sustainable development, the report explains that tourism benefits economic growth, quality of life, environmental protection, diverse cultural heritage and world peace.

An output of the International Year of Tourism 2017 (IY2017), the publication is structured around IY2017’s five pillars: sustainable economic growth; social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction; resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change; cultural values, diversity and heritage; and mutual understanding, peace and security.

The first volume demonstrates the ways in which tourism can contribute to these areas, identifies each pillar’s links with the SDGs, highlights action areas, and makes recommendations for governments, businesses and individuals. A cross-cutting section addresses governance, policy frameworks and instruments for sustainable tourism. The second volume includes descriptions of 23 case studies, and highlights tourism’s contribution to the SDGs.

The report elaborates on tourism’s opportunities for development, including: prospects for women and youth, developing countries, rural areas and indigenous communities; its potential to help conserve resources and cultural assets; and its capacity to inspire interaction and understanding. It explains that tourism can act as a catalyst for environmental and cultural protection, and strengthen peace and reconciliation. The report also identifies challenges, such as: tourism’s sensitivity to market influences; poor working conditions; emissions and pollution; potential adverse effects on biodiversity, heritage and communities; and lack of comprehensive data on tourism’s impacts on sustainability.

Tourism can act as catalyst for environmental and cultural protection, and strengthen peace and reconciliation.

The report recommends that, inter alia: governments establish and enforce inclusive and integrated policy frameworks for sustainable tourism development; businesses demonstrate their commitment to sustainability in core business models and value chains with enhanced action; and individuals and civil society advocate for and adopt consciously sustainable practices and behaviors.

Tourism Links with the SDGs

The report highlights three SDG targets, in particular, that mention sustainable tourism, namely: SDG target 8.9 on devising and implementing sustainable tourism policies that create jobs and promote local culture and products; SDG target 12.b on developing and implementing tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism; and SDG target 14.7 on increasing the economic benefits to small island developing States (SIDS) and the least developed countries (LDCs) from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism.

The report also spells out tourism’s links to each of the 17 SDGs:

  • SDG 1 (no poverty): tourism can be linked to national poverty reduction strategies and entrepreneurship through low skills requirements and local recruitment;
  • SDG 2 (zero hunger): tourism can spur sustainable agriculture by promoting production, supplies to hotels, and sales of local products to tourists;
  • SDG 3 (good health and well-being): tax income generated from tourism and visitors fees collected in protected areas can be reinvested in health care and services;
  • SDG 4 (quality education): capacity and skills need to be built to ensure the tourism sector can prosper and provide job opportunities for youth, women and those with special needs;
  • SDG 5 (gender equality): tourism can empower women, particularly through the provision of direct jobs and income generation in tourism and hospitality-related enterprises;
  • SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation): tourism investment requirement for providing utilities can play a critical role in achieving water access and security, hygiene and sanitation;
  • SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy): tourism can help reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs), mitigate climate change and contribute to energy access by promoting clean energy investments;
  • SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth): decent work opportunities in tourism, particularly for youth and women, and policies that favor better diversification through tourism value chains can enhance tourism’s positive socioeconomic impacts;
  • SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure): tourism can influence public policies aimed at upgrading and retrofitting infrastructure to make it more sustainable, innovative and efficient;
  • SDG 10 (reduced inequalities): sustainable tourism can engage local populations and all stakeholders in tourism development, and contribute to urban renewal and rural development;
  • SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities): tourism can, inter alia, promote urban regeneration, and preserve cultural and natural heritage;
  • SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production): adopting sustainable consumption and production (SCP) models can help monitor sustainable development impacts for tourism, including for energy, water, waste, biodiversity and job creation;
  • SDG 13 (climate action): tourism stakeholders can play a critical leading role in fighting climate change by reducing their carbon footprints;
  • SDG 14 (life below water): tourism development can help preserve marine ecosystems and promote a blue economy and the sustainable use of marine resources;
  • SDG 15 (life on land): sustainable tourism can help conserve and preserve biodiversity, and generate revenue as an alternative livelihood for local communities;
  • SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions): tourism can help foster multicultural and interfaith tolerance and understanding, and peace in post-conflict societies; and
  • SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals): tourism can strengthen public-private partnerships (PPPs) and engage all stakeholders to work together to achieve the SDGs.

Tourism and SDG Links with IY2017 Five Pillars

Regarding sustainable economic growth (pillar 1), the report highlights links with, inter alia, SDG target 8.9, target 9.1 on infrastructure development in transborder contexts and target 17.3 on support for promoting investments.

On social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction (pillar 2), the report points to: SDG target 1.4 on ensuring rights to economic resources for the poor and vulnerable; SDG 3, which is linked to enabling individuals to benefit from tourism as a “life-enhancing” activity; SDG targets 4.3-4.5 on access to vocational education and skills training; targets related to SDGs 5 and 10 on social inclusiveness of sustainable tourism development; and SDG target 8.9.

Regarding resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change (pillar 3), the report notes interlinkages with, inter alia, SDG target 8.4 on resource efficiency in consumption and production; SDG target 12.b; SDG target 12.1 on implementation of 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP), including the Sustainable Tourism Programme; SDG targets 12.3 and 12.6 on food waste and sustainability reporting by companies; and target 14.7.

On cultural values, diversity and heritage (pillar 4), the report describes links with SDG target 11.4 on strengthened efforts to protect and safeguard cultural and natural heritage; and aspects of SDGs 8 and 12 that mention culture in relation to tourism.

Regarding mutual understanding, peace and security (pillar 5), the report references SDG 17, which discusses issues relevant for sustainable tourism development, such as means of implementation (MOI), policy and institutional coherence, multi-stakeholder partnerships, data, monitoring and accountability.

The report recommends funding for sustainable tourism development towards SDG-related projects, such as: national tourism strategies to achieve sustainable development; strategic infrastructure projects; and scalable and innovative sustainable tourism projects.

The case studies contained in Volume II address, inter alia: green supply chains in Slovenia; a world heritage site in Egypt; women entrepreneurs in Mali; a responsible tourism initiative in Kerala, India; a coral island park in Tanzania; wildlife conservation in Kenya; climate change vulnerability in Mexico; enhancing the climate resilience of tourism-reliant communities in Samoa; hostels in the US; sustainable tourism governance in Bohol province, the Philippines; a sustainable tourism initiative in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE); and the Youth Career Initiative, which helps the hotel sector address SDG 8 by supporting disadvantaged youth, including human trafficking survivors, through skills and employability training.

The report was released on 6 June 2018 in Brussels, Belgium, during European Development Days (EDD). [Publication: Tourism for Development: Volume I: Key Areas for Action] [Tourism for Development: Volume II: Success Stories] [Volume I Landing Page] [Volume II Landing Page] [UNWTO Press Release]


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