I write to you as I begin my final year as UNWTO Secretary-General, a position I have been privileged to hold for almost seven years at an Agency I have been proud to serve for the past decade.
During this time I have seen tourism become one of the world’s most important and impactful socio-economic sectors of our times. I have seen its growing relevance to the lives of millions around the world, to the preservation of our common values and to greater understanding among people of all walks of life.
I have seen increasing commitment from the international community, with many countries realizing the potential for tourism to become a pillar of their development. This commitment is attested to by the inclusion of tourism in the universal 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon by 193 nations in 2015.
And now I am very privileged and grateful to be celebrating 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The UN General Assembly’s decision to dedicate 2017 to tourism’s contribution to sustainable and inclusive growth was no coincidence. Tourism is increasingly and rightly being recognized as a sector that can help usher in a better world.
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.
Of course, many challenges remain before our sector. Yet if there is one thing I will always remember from my time in this captivating and rewarding sector, it is that tourism is a sector of hope. Not only is it one of the most resilient economic sectors, but it also unites people across backgrounds, cultures and continents every day. Through travel, we gain understanding, tolerance, and empathy for our fellow man – essential in the globalization era, where our global village can only prosper through harmonious living.
The tremendous hope that our sector provides should inspire us all to act for the good of people and planet. Together we can be the change we want to see.
Let us all remember that whatever we do in life; our core business is to make this world a better place.
I wish you a very happy International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.
Secretary-General, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)