According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the international tourism forecast is over one billion and will contribute $2 trillion to the global economy in 2012. This makes the travel and tourism industry one of the biggest economic sectors in the world. It also contributes to the social-economic development by creating millions of jobs world-wide. However, while looking at these impressive figures, it is of course unavoidable to start thinking of some of the negative impacts mass tourism has on global natural resources due to increased transportation, air pollution, water scarcity, littering, etc. But on the positive side, there is now an increased environmental awareness among governments, corporations and tourists.
Since 1980, the World Tourism Day (WTD) is commemorated on 27 September every year to specifically acknowledge the social, cultural, political and economic values of tourism. The overall purpose is to help reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This year’s theme, “Tourism and Sustainable Energy: Powering Sustainable Development”, is trying to raise the awareness of howrenewable energy can help making the tourism industry more sustainable. In a press release issued prior the conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that: “Hundreds of millions of people around the world depend for income of this energy-intensive sector. Sustainable energy will allow tourism to continue to expand while mitigating its impact on the environment.”
This year, the official World Tourism Day celebration is taking place in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria (Spain) – a place with a long experience in both tourism and renewable energy. Gran Canaria is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, north-west of Africa, and is part of the archipelago of the Canary Islands. It is often referred to as a “miniature continent” thanks to its microclimate and varied flora and fauna (you find here a desert, beautiful pine woods, and nearly 2000 meter high mountains, all in an area of just 1,560 square kilometers). In 2005, the island was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and each year about 3 million tourists come here from all over the world to enjoy water sports activities, hiking, golf or just to have a leisurely vacation at one of the many holiday resorts.
Receiving so many tourists every year has, of course, raised the environmental awareness in Gran Canaria and renewable energy solutions such as wind power and solar energy are vital to make the tourism industry more sustainable. By implementing a number projects related to Research, Development and Innovation, the Technological Institute of Canary Islands (ITC) aims at improving the environmental conditions and supports sustainable development in the region. ITC has many successful projects in emerging technological fields such as water technologies, biotechnology and renewable energy.
Apart from highlighting the latest achievements in sustainable energy, the World Tourism Day is of course also the perfect occasion to get familiar with various local products. If you visit Gran Canaria you must try the delicious cow, goat and sheep cheeses, the local wine, the air-dried ham and, last but not the least, the Aloe Vera (known for its moisturizing effect and used in many skin care products, make-up, shampoo, etc.)
For more information about the activities on the World Tourism Day, 2012, visit the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) official website: http://wtd.unwto.org/en. You can also follow their latest news on Twitter: #WTD2012