U.N. urges more investments in world ecotourism projects

The United Nations tourism agency Thursday said it welcomed the General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution late last year which recognized ecotourism as key in the fight against poverty, the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development.

The U.N. quoted Taleb Rifai, secretary general of its World Tourism Organization.

“The remarkable support that the resolution has received, from all regions and across the development spectrum, is a clear testimony that sustainable tourism has a vital role to play in a fairer and sustainable future for all,” he added.

The resolution, adopted Dec. 21 and entitled Promotion of ecotourism for poverty eradication and environment protection, calls on U.N. member states to adopt policies that promote ecotourism, highlighting its “positive impact on income generation, job creation and education, and thus on the fight against poverty and hunger.”

It further recognizes that “ecotourism creates significant opportunities for the conservation, protection and sustainable use of biodiversity and of natural areas by encouraging local and indigenous communities in host countries and tourists alike to preserve and respect the natural and cultural heritage.”

According to the World Tourism Organization, the resolution, presented by Morocco and sponsored by a record 105 delegations, draws on the recommendations contained in one of its reports, put together on the basis of responses from 48 member states, “which, in a notable departure from its normal practice, was welcomed by the U.N. General Assembly.”

In line with the UNWTO report’s recommendations, the resolution underscores the need for national tourism plans to account for market demand and local competitive advantages.

It also encourages countries to promote investment in ecotourism, in accordance with their national legislation, including creating small and medium-sized enterprises, promoting cooperatives and facilitating access to finance through inclusive financial services such as microcredit initiatives for the poor, local and native communities, in areas of ecotourism potential and rural areas.

Last year, the World Tourism Organization said that despite global economic uncertainty, international tourism continued to grow in 2012, with the estimated number of tourists traveling that year reaching a record one billion.

Tourism accounted for 9 percent of global gross domestic product when totaling its direct, indirect and induced impact, according to the agency, which also noted that one in every 12 jobs and up to 8 percent of the total exports of the designated least developed countries depend on tourism.

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