A brief by Graciela Pedrosa-Sobrido***, Scholar at the World Tourism Organisation
What´s the vision? What´s my mission?
A few days ago Tamara Guirao-Espiñeira kindly invited me to be a guest blogger, and I would like to begin my comments thanking her for the given surprise and honor. She knows I am working on a project for the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which is the United Nations agency in charge of the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, and the unique one with its headquarters in Madrid, Spain.
It is proven that tourism can be a driver of economic growth, inclusive development, and socio-environmental sustainability. For those reasons, leadership, support, updated knowledge, legislation and policies are needed worldwide. This organization focuses on maximizing tourism’s socio-economic contribution while minimizing its possible negative impacts, and it is committed to promoting tourism as an instrument of achievements towards reducing poverty and fostering sustainable development. It includes 156 countries, 6 Associate Members and over 400 Affiliate Members, representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.
Moreover, the UNWTO is promoting the World Tourism Day (WTD) on September 27th, and the Maldives will host this year’s official celebrations, around the theme “Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future”, as a platform to underscore tourism´s responsibility and commitment in ensuring a sustainable water future. With all that in mind, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urges “tourism establishments to cut consumption and improve waste management and (…) individuals to play their part by making environmentally conscious choices when they travel.” And UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai states that the “World Tourism Day offers a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on water both as an asset and as a resource.”
I understand that dates like this global WTD are meant to serve for exchanging ideas and points of view, celebrating all the good and beautiful we have, to do campaign and continue to devise and innovate solutions, ensuring tourism contributes to sustainable access to water resources around the world. I believe this WTD can be a good reminder, not just in the Maldives (in disappearance serious risk) but worldwide, for public and private sector tourism stakeholders, media and eco-friendly leading experts to debate key issues and actions encompassing the global water challenge, for institutions and companies to consider their important role managing resources and building infrastructures for a proper water use.
But, celebrations like this one are also about normal people taking into consideration the impact of their decisions when planning how to travel, and accepting their responsibility as consumers and users of Tourist goods and services. If we don’t understand any more, for example, textile companies not demanding their suppliers to care about workers dignity, why shouldn’t we, as citizens, do the same, taking Human and Earth dignity as important ingredients of our decisions? Why not to consider the pressure we can do, and the power we have, with our choices? Why not to prove public and private sector stakeholders that doing good is more beneficial and cheaper? What about being conscious on what we do and say, walk the talk, and educate future generations with ethical behavior? Well, simply because we cannot waste the water we have, we all need it for being healthy, strong and clean to face daily circumstances and challenges, and scare away all the “vultures” of fear and danger looming up.
It is not that I say this only because I worry about the scandalous inequalities of wealth distribution in the world, not just marked by nature. But, maybe because I know how privileged I am, coming from a well known touristic city that is permanently linked to water, at least, almost on everyday´s National Weather forecast: Santiago de Compostela. Or, because I guess that, as a Galician woman, even the blue-green color of my eyes is explained by water, and the Vikings invasions all along the coast. In the Atlantic Arc, we perfectly understand the connection between Tourism & water. For many centuries, water has been the main mean of transportation we have used for traveling. As crossing the ocean was “easier” for our ancestors than climbing the mountains, bringing economic transactions and exchange of knowledge in every adventure, explaining why Irish race cows come from Galicia, and American horses come from Spain. Because, for us, Forrest Gump various descriptions of the rain are completely meaningful, and we cannot conceive life without green landscapes, the singing of the river or the smell of the sea. For all those reasons we probably need the most to value what we have in abundance and others don´t.
Let´s take care of it for our grandchildren to enjoy!