On World Tourism Day, stakeholders call for increased access to sustainable energy

PR No.: PR12055

Tourism businesses and destinations are committed to the sustainable energy agenda but need the support of the energy sector and governments to move forward, said leading experts from the aviation, accommodation and other tourism industries meeting in Spain for the official celebrations of World Tourism Day 2012 (Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain, 27 September 2012).

Their Royal Highnesses, the Prince and Princess of Asturias opened the celebrations, commending the tourism community for choosing Tourism & Sustainable Energy as the theme of World Tourism Day (WTD) 2012, in line with the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.

“This theme brings to the table one of the most pressing challenges facing the world today,” said Prince Felipe. “We cannot guarantee the future of important sectors such as tourism if we don’t protect the environment in which they take place.”

This message was echoed by the Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism of Spain, José Manuel Soria, who spoke of the importance of ensuring tourism’s sustained growth, “one of the world’s largest employers”, while committing to sustainability.

UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, pointed to the many sustainable energy initiatives already in place in the tourism sector, “from the world’s airline giants using biofuels in commercial flights, to small hotels placing insulating plants on their roofs to keep hotels cool in summer and warm in winter,” but cautioned that with one billion tourists estimated to travel the world in 2012 alone, “more can and must be done.”  

In his key note address, Michel Lemay, Chairman of the Tour Operators’ Initiative (TOI), recalled that sustainable energy may well be one of the most promising solutions to many of today’s global challenges, from climate change to  geopolitics and the economy.

Participating in the annual WTD Think Tank debate, moderated by UNWTO’s media partner, CNN TASK, representatives of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Etihad Airways expressed the industry’s readiness to deploy sustainable energy solutions, signalling that sustainability makes business sense and that airlines have a vested interest in moving the sustainable energy agenda forward by, for example, using biofuels.

Speaking of the concerns of the accommodation industry and tour operators, Spanish hotel chain Lopesan and Russian tour operator Natalie Tours, further expressed their willingness to adopt cleaner energies, especially ways that would allow tourists to make energy-conscious but still cost-effective travel choices. Panellists pointed to the UNWTO online tool, Hotel Energy Solutions, which helps hotels to assess their energy use and make major cuts, as one such initiative. The Spanish version of the tool was launched on the occasion of WTD.    

The need for better collaboration between the tourism and energy sectors was echoed by the Spanish energy company Acciona and the Secretary of State of Energy of Spain, who acknowledged the important links between tourism and energy. The two sectors would have to work closely together, and with the support of governments, they concluded, to ensure a brighter energy future for all.

Note to editors:

World Tourism Day (WTD) is held annually on 27 September.

Its purpose is to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. The event seeks to address global challenges outlined in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to highlight the contribution the tourism sector can make in reaching these goals.

Recommendations of the WTD Think Tank will be available soon at www.wtd.unwto.org

The Tour Operators’ Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development (TOI): Established in 2000, TOI has been developed to encourage tour operators to make a corporate commitment to sustainable development and to pragmatically promote sound tourism development by optimizing tour operators’ capacity to: a) implement environmental management strategies at destinations, b) influence tourism development and destinations’ life cycles; c) provide a long-term vision for the competitiveness and attractiveness of destinations and d) encourage responsible travel choices and behaviors to consumers.

The Tour Operators’ Initiative serves as a forum for research and information exchange, capacity building, technical support and communication and is fully supported by UNWTO, which currently hosts the TOI’s Secretariat, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).


Useful links:

World Tourism Day 2012

Press release: Online tool that helps hotels go green now available in Spanish




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