‘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”.