HOW DO WE RETHINK TOURISM?
The big question from the big picture
June Mukherjee, Kolkata, September 15, 2022
Another World Tourism Day returns with some celebrations and jubilations planned all over the world with a focus on the future revolving around the theme ‘Rethinking Tourism’. But do we see that future taking the shape of reality in our nearest vision? We need to also evaluate why do we have to rethink? Everything cannot be burdened in the name of the pandemic situation as big issues of tourism are long-standing, and the last couple of years have only worsened it. The problem is deep, the solution has to be deeper.
The true success of World Tourism Day will reflect beyond ribbon-cuttings, speeches, seminars and workshops, lunches and cocktail dinners when the industry will address the real big issues and solve them without maintaining a blind eye.
As the sector’s recovery gets underway, building on the unprecedented political and public recognition for the sector, the opportunity to rethink how we do tourism is the need of the hour. This means putting people and the planet first and bringing everyone from governments and businesses to local communities together around a shared vision for a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient sector.
Tourism’s relevance has never been clearer. The time is now to seize this opportunity to rethink about every part of the sector that just does not end in the formal celebration of the annual day, but be an active part of the continuous process. ‘Rethinking Tourism’ asks everyone to focus on re-imagining the sector’s growth, both in terms of size and relevance. The potential of tourism is enormous, and from tourism workers to tourists, small businesses, large corporations and governments, all have a shared responsibility to make sure it is fully realised.
World Tourism Day has been held on September 27, each year since 1980. The date marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Statutes of the Organisation in 1970 in Mexico City, paving the way for the establishment of UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) five years later.
International tourist arrivals at the start of this year were double the level recorded in 2021. In some regions, arrivals are already at, or even above, pre-pandemic levels. The lifting of the remaining travel restrictions, alongside rising consumer confidence, will be important drivers for the sector’s recovery, bringing hope and opportunity to many millions of people around the world.
A shift towards focussing on tourism is being observed as a crucial pillar of national development and progress in many countries. May 2022 marked the first time, the United Nations General Assembly held a special debate on tourism, illustrating the historic relevance of the sector.
Tourism is now on the agenda of governments and of international organisations in every global region. At the same time, destinations and businesses are proactively adapting to meet challenges and responsibilities, as illustrated by the wave of signatories to the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism. This year's theme should inspire the debate around rethinking tourism for development, including through education and jobs, and tourism’s impact on the planet and opportunities to grow more sustainably.
All of these strategic planning gives positive vibes, no doubt. But the time is now to act. The moment is now to carry forward all these inclusive dialogues to identify solutions to realise tourism’s potential as a vehicle for recovery and transformation and act accordingly; amplify the message of tourism as an inspirational and transformational force and the role of each one in the sector in fulfilling this potential; mobilise political will and cooperation to ensure tourism as a central part of policy-making via effective advocacy; and finally ask the big questions fearlessly and identify solutions to realign tourism for the future.