The United Nations General Assembly declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development recalling the potential of tourism to advance the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development aims to support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behaviour towards a more sustainable tourism sector that can contribute effectively to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“This is a unique opportunity to build a more responsible and committed tourism sector that can capitalise its immense potential in terms of economic prosperity, social inclusion, peace and understanding, cultural and environmental preservation,” said World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development was launched at FITUR, an annual global travel trade show, in the presence of His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain, organised by the UNWTO. The event, held at the El Pardo Palace in Madrid, Spain, was attended by ministers of tourism from around the world. The celebration highlighted tourism’s enormous potential to contribute to the development of all countries within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the need to continue advancing towards a more sustainable sector that generates benefits to local communities and promotes the conservation of cultural values and natural heritage.
Accounting for seven pc of worldwide exports, one in eleven jobs and 10 pc of the world’s GDP, the tourism sector if well managed can foster inclusive economic growth, social inclusiveness and the protection of cultural and natural assets.
The International Year will promote tourism’s role in the following five key areas: inclusive and 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.
Aimed at providing a framework for joint action in the area of sustainable tourism, the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation. The agreement, undersigned by UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, and JICA Executive Senior Vice President, Kazuhiko Koshikawa, opens important opportunities for collaboration as JICA is one of the largest global donors in terms of international cooperation for development in tourism.
As underlined in the document, the agreement aims to contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals through tourism. A particular focus is given to assisting developing countries to reduce poverty through tourism as well as to improve public policies and business practices in order to ensure sustainable and responsible production and consumption patterns along the tourism supply chain.
“2017 is a unique opportunity for us to promote the contribution of tourism to achieving the future we want – and also to determine, together, the exact role we will have tourism play in the sustainable development agenda, to and beyond 2030,” added Rifai.
India recognised with UNWTO Award
The UNWTO Awards paid tribute to the commitment of the tourism sector towards sustainability and innovation. The winning projects were announced during the UNWTO Awards Ceremony in the International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR) in Madrid. The UNWTO Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism are held annually to highlight and promote the work of organisations and individuals around the world that have greatly impacted the tourism sector. The 13th edition of this award saw 139 applications from 55 countries.
For India, ISKCON Govardhan Eco Village (GEV) won the prestigious United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Award, leading over 55 countries in the category of ‘Innovation in Non-Governmental Organisations’.
Spread over 70 acres in Wada near Mumbai, Govardhan Eco Village is the first Indian NGO to win a UNWTO Award. It was recognised for its ground-breaking work in using eco-tourism to reduce poverty and provide sustainable livelihoods in one of the most backward tribal regions of India.
“The UNWTO Awards reflect the efforts done worldwide by the tourism community to foster innovation and the need of the sector to advance towards a more sustainable and responsible future,” said Taleb Rifai.
Gauranga Das, President of Govardhan Eco Village said, “It was an honour to represent the people of India at the United Nations, and win this award for our country. We are grateful to UNWTO for spreading the message of sustainability on a larger scale.”
He expressed his gratitude to His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, Founder of ISKCON, Radhanath Swami, Founder of Govardhan Eco Village and to the entire community of ISKCON. “We hope to utilise this honour to spread the message of peace, harmony and sustainability to benefit those who are the most deprived and need our help the most. The project has successfully linked tourism initiatives at the Govardhan Eco Village with providing a sustainable life to the local tribal communities in villages, thereby creating a model for empowerment and development of the local people,” he added.
Govardhan Eco Village has earlier won several international and national awards including the International Green World Award in South Korea, International Zero Waste Award in the UK, International Built Environment Award in the UK, Aqua Excellence Award for Sustainability initiatives in Social Sector, Skoch Renaissance and Platinum Award for Water Conservation.