The United Nations General Assembly met on May 5, 2022, where it held a first-ever session dedicated to tourism and its role in inclusive recovery and growth.
The high-level debate was convened by the president of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, in collaboration with the UNWTO.
UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili stressed that “now is the time to build resilient and peaceful societies, and tourism can help make this happen. Tourism is a leading provider of opportunities because it is based on people, builds bridges and helps create a better tomorrow for people everywhere”.
UN deputy secretary-general and chair of the Sustainable Development Group, Amina J Mohammed, noted: “Every part of the United Nations system, including the World Tourism Organization as its specialised agency for the sector, can leverage tourism to help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals – from inclusive growth to gender empowerment and biodiversity protection.”
Shahid also emphasised the importance of tourism, particularly for small islands and developing states.
“We face a critical opportunity to not only reboot tourism, upon which so many are dependent for their jobs and livelihoods, but to transform it to make it more resilient, more sustainable and more responsible,” he said.
A Fireside Chat, chaired by CNN International anchor Richard Quest, reflected the challenges faced through tourism’s recovery, addressing how best to reconcile potential trade-offs between the need for economic growth and creating jobs with advancing efforts for overall sustainability.
The debate featured a special roundtable discussion focused on tourism with an emphasis on inclusivity. This was followed by another roundtable discussion on accelerating the climate-friendly transformation of tourism, with the concluding third roundtable discussion focused on re-invigorating investments in tourism.
The debate also laid the foundations for the potential inclusion of tourism as a topic of annual debates or thematic sessions within the UN General Assembly.