The Role Of International Organizations In Promoting Sustainable Tourism Development

Sustainable Tourism Development

Tourism is viewed as one of the World’s vast industry hence bearing the potential of continued growth in order to uphold that status appropriately into the twenty-first century (Pender & Sharpley, 2004) It is therefore important to note that the tourism industry represents a key environmental, economic and socio-cultural influence (Hall & Jenkins, 2003). However, the importance of public policy process in tourism has been neglected. Recently, tourism has been perceived as an integral part of various programmes of government in both the developed and lesser developed nations.

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Sustainable tourism development refers to all the efforts that are directed towards achieving a low impact mainly on the local culture and the environment while making sure it generates future job opportunities for the local people (Theobald, William F., 2013) Therefore, all the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainable development should consider the interests of all the key stakeholders such as the local communities, indigenous people industry, visitors and government (Kunkel, Lily Marlene, 2010).

There are various international organizations which seek to promote sustainable tourism development across the globe (Fayos-Sola E. , 2014). They include the UNWTO, UNESCO, Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWN) etc. Such organizations were formed under the framework that recognizes ecotourism as a cross-cutting activity that can promote the creation of employment and education and the ability to contribute significantly to the preservation of fauna and flora by encouraging communities and visitors to conserve natural and cultural heritage. They also highlight the importance of ecotourism in raising the socio-economic welfare of the local communities.

This essay will focus on discussing the responsibilities and functions of various types of organizations in tourism, give instances of how tourism has been influenced in different destinations as a result of international agreements or these organizations, examine the effectiveness of their work and provide a justification for the involvement of the international organization in tourism for the pursuit of sustainable tourism.

The various organizations in tourism have been playing different roles. This is coupled with community tourism (Murphy & Murphy, 2004). For instance, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) gives sponsorship to the less developed countries to help change tourism sector as a panacea to alleviating the pressing social and economic problems. It conducts research studies for the tourism market, prepares drafts regarding international agreements on tourism, and organizes conferences and seminars on various issues such as the development of infrastructure, aviation, planning, and marketing shared by a majority of nations. It also collects information on tourism which consists of special events, statistical facilities, legislation and regulation, gathers, analyses and distributing relevant information on various aspects of tourism and the provision of updated information.

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International Organizations Supporting Sustainable Tourism Development

The United Federation of Travel Agents Association (UFTAA) founded in Roma in 1996 provides its members with the necessary technical and professional advice, material and help to enable them to assume their proper place in world tourism economy. It also seeks to oppose legislators that are either directly or indirectly harmful to tourism.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) provide viable information and practical assistance in the field of tourism and helps upcoming destinations to develop their infrastructure.

These international organizations have partnered with the National Tourism Organization of different countries especially the third world nations on key tourism projects. For instance, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) within its framework of ST-EP (Sustainable Tourism-Eliminating Poverty), gave support to Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism in implementing the Kisiizi Falls tourism project situated on the Rushona River. The project’s objective was to appraise activities of tourists at Kisiizi Falls by constructing toilets, visitor center, viewing points, hiking trails, a lagoon, a hanging bridge, a monument, a zip line, information boards and road signage.

The project also ensured the mobilization of the community and provision of training in hospitality services and guiding skills (Briggs & Roberts, 2016). The project was successfully completed at the end of August 2017 through the generous contribution from the ST-EP Foundation and the Korea Tourism Organization. Consequently, the Kisiizi Falls is witnessing an increase in tourist traffic (7,856 tourists recorded during the first half of 2017). Community businesses are also benefiting from the sales of tourist services and products. The disadvantages members of the community, who otherwise would be unable to access medical care are now catered for by the Good Samaritan Fund that gets some share of the tourism income.

The UNWTO completed activities of yet another ST-EP project recently on a community-based ecotourism. It is located in two villages called Borey Osvay and Preah Rumkel along the Mekong River in northern Cambodia. It was launched in May 2016 with the generous contribution from Europamundo, a Spanish foundation and implemented by Mlup Baitong, a renowned Cambodian NGO. The project assisted both community-based ecotourism (CBET) sites in Preah Rumkel and Boray to improve their marketing materials and advertisement with an aim of raising the tourist population. The UNWTO collaborated with the CBETCs for each ecotourism site and did the following; installed 5 bill boards, produced 6 attractive road maps and tour itineraries and designed tree planting areas for tourists. They also compiled relevant information on tourist attractions of the area and uploaded photos to the website of the Provincial Department of Tourism of Stung Treng. In the course of the project, the number of visiting tourists reached an estimated 4,200. The income generated was about 13,000USD in the period of twelve months of the project establishment.

Examples of International Organizations and Their Projects

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been actively taking action in the Congo Basin since 2000 focusing mainly on the improvement of conservation and management of Natural World Heritage Sites. Considering that the forests of Central Africa represent the World’s second largest tropical rainforest after the Amazon, the conservation of the Congo Basin forest is important for its 30 million inhabitants who rely on the endless list of environmental products and services provided by the forest. The area also plays a vital role in carbon sequestration and regulation of climate (Megevand, Caroline, 2013).

These international organizations have successfully achieved most of their objectives in promoting sustainable development in the tourism industry, especially in the less developed countries. The effectiveness of their programmes has been realized through proper research conducted on the potential benefits before implementation of the various tourism projects.for instance, the Kisiizi Falls project in Uganda generated 9,146,000 Ugandan shilling from entry fee and 2,577,505 UGX from product sales in the first half of 2017. The income goes to the activities of alleviating poverty through the provision of socio-economic welfare for the local communities and the economy at large. Looking at the statistics provided by the tourism organizations such as UNESCO and UNWTO, it is evident that their efforts in promoting sustainable tourism development have yielded tremendous results.

The involvement of International Organizations in tourism for the pursuit of sustainable tourism is justifiable in a number of ways. For instance, they have the necessary resources such as sufficient and qualified workforce and finances required for these huge tasks of biodiversity conservation (Suresh, Kumar, 2015). They are able to offer partnerships with governments of the respective nations on issues of tourism promotion and sustainability (Lennon, Smith, Cockerell, & Trew, 2006). The International Organizations provide a viable avenue for redistributing wealth from developed countries to the less developed ones through the financial and technical support for reliable and effective commercialization of tourism (Edgell & Swanson, 2013).

Conclusively, tourism can set the pace for economic growth and development through accelerated investment in realizing the full potential of the industry (Denman & Denman, 2004). This is likely to be achieved through partnerships of these organizations and the respective less developed countries with a common goal of ensuring sustainable tourism development. Several studies have associated world heritage with the development of tourism of the African Continent emphasizing on the potential for heritage to become a driving force behind tourism especially in the developing and lesser developed countries. Therefore, it is important to appreciate the ongoing participation of the International Tourism Organizations in promoting international tourism growth. However, the existing gap between the most highly developed nations in regards to tourism and those that are less developed (some even not at all) should be fully addressed. These organizations should take into consideration the best criteria that will ensure sustainable development, in particular through community involvement and the redistribution of the available resources.  It is important to note that the right drive instituted in majority of the International Tourism Organizations has contributed largely in the framework of attaining sustainable tourism development, main focus being on the less developed countries.


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