Each day, more than three million tourists cross international borders, and every year more than one billion people travel abroad. Simply put, travel and tourism combined are now one of the world’s largest industries. To make sure that the power of travel is harnessed as a positive force for people and the planet, the United Nations has declared 2017 The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The three key pillars of Sustainable Tourism are:
At Big Five, our longstanding commitment to sustainable tourism runs deep, and we are proud to be the only travel company to have won the prestigious Virtuoso Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award, not once, but twice (2014 and 2016). We know that experiencing an outstanding vacation and supporting the pillars of sustainable tourism can go hand in hand. We are proud to share with you how traveling with Big Five can help to support cultural heritage, protect endangered species, deliver local economic benefits, and further cross-cultural understanding and peace in the world – all wrapped together into the journey of a lifetime.
May you live in interesting times is an English expression that for years was said, although never validated, to be a translation of an ancient Chinese curse. Regardless of its origins, it certainly seems applicable to these times, our times.
Considering the sheer number of trouble spots in the world today, supporting cross-cultural understanding would appear to be in all our best interests. And, one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal is international tourism.
Tourism has evolved into one of the largest industries on the planet. According to the World Tourism Organization, it is one of the world’s fastest growing export sectors, contributing up to 9% of the global GDP, and accounting for one in 11 jobs worldwide. Let that sink in – one in 11.
Peace through tourism is not some pep rally slogan. Research by The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and others has shown that active tourism is a significant factor in reducing unemployment, increasing economic growth, contributing to resource conservation and improving cultural exchange globally. While tourism is not the entire answer, research reveals that countries with a more open and sustainable tourism sector tend to be more peaceful. A sustainable and open tourism sector brings about higher levels of positive peace in the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies.
Tourism can also help support peace by putting pressure on governments to cease fighting in order to attract tourists. This is particularly important if tourism is an important sector for an economy. For example, in 1979, the tourism boycott in Guatemala led by the International Food and Allied Workers suppressed the flow of tourism into Guatemala, which relied heavily on tourism revenues. That action, in turn, was said to have pressured the military government to “desist its violation of human rights” and contributed to the reduction of the ongoing domestic violence.
Big Five began exploring Colombia as a destination in 2009, and began sending guests there in 2010. The civil war was still going on within the country and FARC rebels were hiding out in Colombia’s national parks and wilderness areas. Then, last year a peace treaty finally came and now those former FARC fighters are laying down their arms to become ecotourism soldiers.
Sri Lanka has recently emerged from a devastating civil war lasting more than 30 years. Today, sustainable tourism efforts are helping that country transition into a peaceful democracy with a growing economy. The small island has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and amazing potential for growth. Sustainable tourism is helping open the door to that growth. Indeed, the Sri Lankan government’s vision for sustainable development is “Achieving sustained economic growth that is socially equitable and ecologically sound, with peace and stability.”
Tourism can also lead to demilitarization of a country to make it safer for tourists. In Rwanda, the efforts to remove land mines was generated, in large measure, by the increasing importance of gorilla tourism in the national parks.
Uganda’s government uses sustainable tourism to achieve reductions in poverty levels, generate socio-economic opportunities and help reduce the gap between rich and poor, including women who often are omitted from the economic equation.
Sustainable tourism helps nations realize the many long-term benefits of peaceful, stable societies, which includes the economic potential gained through preserving communities and conserving the environment.
Please Note: Our offices will be closed Monday, May 29, 2017. We will be open Tues, May 30, for our regular business hours – 9:00am-6:00pm EST.