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Taking account of social and environmental impacts ahead of the World Tourism Day

Tourism has been among the hardest hit of all sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic. Summer was mostly spent within countries’ borders, with governments trying to give a push to the domestic economy.

Now a second wave is coming, which brings new travel restrictions and further economic and jobs’ losses.

Ahead of the World Tourism Day (27 September), the United Nations reminded how the tourism crisis became also a threat to wildlife conservation initiatives. Indeed, the sudden fall in tourism revenues has cut off funding for biodiversity conservation.

“On this World Tourism Day, the COVID-19 pandemic represents an opportunity to rethink the future of the tourism sector, including how it contributes to the sustainable development goals, through its social, cultural, political and economic value,” reads the United Nations’ press release. “Tourism can eventually help us move beyond the pandemic, by bringing people together and promoting  solidarity and trust – crucial ingredients in advancing the global cooperation so urgently needed at this time.”

In particular, the 2020 edition of World Tourism Day, with the theme of Tourism and Rural Development, will celebrate the unique role that tourism plays in providing opportunities outside of big cities and preserving cultural and natural heritage all around the world.

Development through tourism can also keep rural communities alive. It is estimated that by 2050, 68 per cent of the world population will live in urban areas, while 80 per cent of those currently living in extreme poverty live outside of towns and cities.

“For rural communities, indigenous peoples and many other historically marginalised populations, tourism has been a vehicle for integration, empowerment and generating income,” underlined UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Many are the initiatives also around Central and Eastern European countries.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Administrative Department for Tourism of the County of Istria, Croatia, is organising and encouraging participation in the marking of World Tourism Day, in order to draw the attention of the local population and tourists to a great number of amenities and attractions Istria has to offer.

Nada Prodan Mraković, Head of the Administrative Department for Tourism, mentioned that there will be 63 spots throughout Istria, where people can enjoy tourist attractions with discounts of up to 50 per cent or completely free of charge.

“We’re making our offer more accessible so the visitors can get acquainted with the facilities and attractions of Istria, thus strengthening their promotion,” she explained. “In addition to adrenaline parks, museums, castles, caves, protected areas, workshops, performances and the like, all those interested will be able to visit numerous winemakers, olive growers, truffle hunters and other local producers who joined us on this occasion. A great number of local tourist boards joined the event with their programmes.”

A tourism that addresses the needs of the environment

Of course, we cannot forget about the sustainable aspect of tourism, even during these unprecedented times.

The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) is promoting a tourism “that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”

According to the WTO, sustainable tourism should make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity. It should also respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities and ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed.

In this regard, Poland’s Pomorskie region is celebrating the World Tourism Day recognising the importance of people and investments in the sector. Awards will be given, among others for the most prominent personality of the year, the best innovation in tourism and the best investment in tourism.

Furthermore, these last days have witnessed the launch of many initiatives to promote more sustainable tourism. When thinking about tourism, the first sector that must implement sustainable changes is the transportation one.

The world’s largest airliner manufacturer, Airbus has revealed three concepts for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft which could enter service by 2035. These concepts each represent a different approach to achieving zero-emission flight, exploring various technology pathways and aerodynamic configurations in order to support the company’s ambition of leading the way in the decarbonisation of the entire aviation industry.

All of these concepts rely on hydrogen as a primary power source – an option which Airbus believes holds exceptional promise as a clean aviation fuel and is likely to be a solution for aerospace and many other industries to meet their climate-neutral targets.

“This is a historic moment for the commercial aviation sector as a whole and we intend to play a leading role in the most important transition this industry has ever seen,” said Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO. “The concepts we unveil today offer the world a glimpse of our ambition to drive a bold vision for the future of zero-emission flight. I strongly believe that the use of hydrogen – both in synthetic fuels and as a primary power source for commercial aircraft – has the potential to significantly reduce aviation’s climate impact.”  

Of course, in order to tackle these challenges, airports must also adapt, providing significant hydrogen transport and refuelling infrastructure to meet the needs of day-to-day operations.

But to be sure which country, which airline, which hotel is really sustainable, leading technology company for the global travel industry Travelport announced and integrated search engine, PowerSearch, through which tour operators, travel agencies and consumers are getting for the first time a comprehensive and reliable overview of the sustainable holiday offers available.

A total of more than 3,500 certified offers are currently available for users from the CEE region (Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia) and from Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

“Sustainability and in particular the protection of the environment are everybody’s business, especially in the travel industry,” commented Dieter Rumpel, Travelport’s Managing Director Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

He defined the search engine as an effective contribution to achieving the goals of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and promoting responsible consumption and production. Airlines operators, hotels and municipalities are giving their all. Now it is our turn to make good use of all these tools. 

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