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This year's theme will provide the industry with a platform to focus on the ability of tourism to empower people and provide them with skills to achieve change in their local communities. The theme is timed to contribute to the debate on tourism’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN development blueprint after 2015, which places a high priority on local participation.
“Each time we travel, use local transport at a destination or buy products from a local market, we are contributing to a long value chain that creates jobs, provides livelihoods, empowers local communities, and ultimately brings in new opportunities for a better future”, says UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, in his official WTD message. “Tourism can only prosper if it engages the local population by contributing to social values such as participation, education and enhanced local governance. At the same time, there can be no real tourism development if such development damages in any way the values and the culture of host communities or if the socio-economic benefits generated by the tourism sector do not trickle down to the community level”, he added.
At Green Hotelier we have examples of hotels empowering local people and communities coming out of our ears. A large contributor to this is International Tourism Partnership's (ITP) employability skills programme Youth Career Initiative (YCI). In 2014 alone YCI will help approximately 350 disadvantaged young people throughout 14 countries develop skills for life and work. Led by some of ITP's member hotel groups, YCI uses hotels as a platform for training - both on-the-job and classroom based - and 75% of graduates go on to find employment.
Alongside the work of YCI, ITP members work to improve the lives of local communities in numerous ways. IHG runs their own Academy to up-skill disadvantaged young people and also runs a very successful local disaster relief programme called Shelter in the Storm. Soneva Resorts' SLOW LIFE strategy includes community initiatives such as the building of a pre-school for up to 200 pupils in the Maldives and mobilising $10 million to distribute efficient stoves to 1 million households in Myanmar. Carlson Rezidor's annual Responsible Business Action Month encourages individual properties to raise awareness and money for local issues; last year £115,000 went to charities in more than 260 communities. For more examples of hotels working with their local community see here.
The official celebrations of World Tourism Day will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico, include a high-level Think Tank bringing together Ministers, development experts and key tourism representatives to address the relevance of a community based tourism approach as conducive to sustainable development. But if you are not in Mexico there are plenty of ways to get involved:
For more information go to the World Tourism Day 2014 homepage.