The World Trade Organization gets all the hype. But there is another WTO: the World Tourism Organization. This is the UN body that is committed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through travel and tourism. This is an industry with a large number of people, money, and resources. However, unlike fuels, chemicals, and automotive parts, world tourism and poverty are naturally linked—each tourist, as a cultural ambassador, has an opportunity to make a tangible difference. There is every reason to believe that travel and tourism can and should be playing an important role in the MDGs.
The UNWTO explicitly focuses on four social objectives: climate change, Millennium Development Goals, economic growth, and poverty reduction. The UNWTO and the World Bank track these objectives along with tourism trends. Notable trends include:
• In 2012, 60 million American citizens traveled abroad
• International travelers totaled 1.035 billion people in 2012.
• 238% growth in international tourist arrivals since 1990.
• Tourism is the 4th largest global industry, after “fuels, chemicals, and automotive parts”
• Tourism occupies the top 1st or 2nd export sector for many nations
• 25% GNP is from tourism for many small island nations
Perhaps the UNWTO deserves a little more attention.
Currently, despite the UNWTO’s efforts, the link between tourism spending and income to the poor is weak. As such, the UNWTO engages national and local governments alongside NGOs and the private sector to change hiring practices, strengthen benefits to the poor, and create pro-poor tourism activities. Examples include training programs for locals in Ebogo, Cameroon, developing ecotourism products in Guatemala, and promoting the Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal.
– Katherine Zobre