Challenging tourism growth: the role of aviation and impacts on biodiversity

Tourism was on the agenda at the 13th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP13) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), held in Cancun, Mexico in December 2016. The draft Cancun Declaration recognizes that tourism, a major sector in the global economy, is dependent upon biodiverse ecosystems. A Third World Network (TWN) briefing paper, ‘Tourism at the tipping point: Governance for future generations’, prepared by Alison M. Johnston, Director of the International Support Centre for Sustainable Tourism, Canada, urges a precautionary approach to tourism growth, challenging the institutionalization of the industry as a ‘pre-approved enterprise’ which facilitates its expansion into remote areas, often damaging rather than conserving ecosystems and biodiversity. The paper highlights the role of aviation, the tourism industry’s dependence upon the petroleum industry, the impacts on indigenous peoples and considerations for future generations.

The paper was presented and discussed at a COP side-event entitled ‘Tourism and Biodiversity: Benefits and Hazards’ that was co-organized by the TWN, the Global Forest Coalition, the International Support Centre for Sustainable Tourism (ISCST) and the Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team (tim-team). This input to the UN biodiversity conference, and other critical perspective on tourism, are particularly important in view of the United Nations designation of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, aiming to support ‘a change in policies, business practices and consumer behavior towards a more sustainable tourism sector’.

 

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Tourism Advocacy and Action Forum (TAAF) Statement for World Tourism Day

‘Aerotropolis’ projects – commercial development around airports including facilities targeted at tourists such as hotels, retail, catering, entertainment and cultural centres – are proliferating around the world. These airport-centric developments are central to the growth of the tourism industry. In a press release to mark World Tourism Day (which has been celebrated on 27th September since 1980) the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of tourism, calls for further growth: World Tourism Day: Celebrating the billion opportunities brought about by the tourism sector. UNWTO advocates that we “work together to maximize the immense potential of tourism to drive inclusive economic growth, protect the environment and promote sustainable development and a life of dignity for all.”

In response to UNWTO’s press release the Tourism Advocacy and Action Forum (TAAF), a founder member of the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM), has released a statement, which draws attention to the sharp contrast between tourism’s benefits for the privileged, for whom the world is ever more easily accessible, and the plight of ‘irregular tourists’, people fleeing from war, poverty and persecution. Militarization of the world’s borders is infringing the rights of refugees and migrants. TAAF also criticizes UNWTO for hailing tourism a “transformative force” bringing livelihood opportunities and helping to alleviate poverty, failing to recognise that tourism can result in displacement and impoverishment, especially for people in developing countries. TAAF urges the UNWTO to “stop acting like a PR agency for the travel and tourism industry and genuinely work for the common good of humanity as deemed appropriate for a UN body”.