Friday, September 17, 2010

World Tourism Day: “Tourism & Biodiversity” the Costa Rica Way!

“ Safeguarding biodiversity is an urgent challenge that concerns us all – the international community, governments, companies and travellers – but it is not too late to act. ”
Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General

About World Tourism Day
World Tourism Day (WTD) is celebrated each year on September 27th. This annual event has been held since 1980, with its primary purpose to increase awareness of the social, cultural, political and economical values of tourism. This worldwide event directly addresses the more pressing global challenges, with an emphasis on the contributions the tourism industry makes in meeting these goals.

Theme for World Tourism Day 2010
Costa Rica had the honor of hosting World Tourism Day in 2002, with its theme of: Ecotourism, the key to sustainable development
The theme for 2010 will celebrate “Tourism and Biodiversity”. The official celebration will be held in Guangzhou, Guandong Province, China, with many other special events taking place around the World.

Coinciding with the United Nations “International Year of Biodiversity”, this year’s World Tourism Day is meant to raise awareness of the vital relationship that exists between tourism development, biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. The hope is to draw more attention to two of the most pressing global challenges: the sustainable use of the world’s limited resources and the eradication of extreme poverty.

Both of these are prominent issues in Costa Rica, which has been in a continued battle to lower it’s 16.9% poverty rate (latest data from 2006), as well as continuing to struggle with regulating sustainable development and eco-friendly tourism goals.

Biodiversity – Tourism’s Natural Asset
A direct link can be found between tourism and biodiverse areas of unique natural beauty that attract large numbers of visitors. Biodiversity is one of tourism’s greatest assets and the most fundamental reason to commit to long-term sustainable growth. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), uncontrolled development, climate change, pollution and other reckless human activities are causing biodiversity loss at an “unsustainable” rate; one far beyond the rate of natural extinction. The importance of protecting the world’s biodiversity is more obvious when we realize that our ecosystems work to sustain us, providing food, energy & health, as well as 40 percent of the global economy. Unfortunately, the ever increasing pressure on these fragile areas create complex challenges which the tourism sector must seriously address.

The question is therefore, how can tourism contribute positively to biodiversity conservation and improving the quality of life for local populations, while minimizing negative environmental and social impact?

Sustainable Tourism – Local, National, Global
By working to establish a suitable balance between environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, sustainability is key to maximizing tourism’s positive contribution to biodiversity at the local, national and global level.

A key source of economic income & employment for local communities, sustainable tourism is a strong incentive to protect biodiversity. Maintaining a healthy balance with the environment, means the ability to properly handle more tourists, in turn, generating more funds for conservation and the economic health of surrounding communities. Many areas of natural beauty and diversity are preserved thanks to the funds generated from the tourism industry, so this should be embraced and carefully expanded upon.

Punta Islita, a Costa Rica model in Local Sustainable Tourism:

National and regional development strategies that recognize the contribution of tourism, are instrumental in protecting and maintaining these important ecologically endangered areas. The increase in environmentally-aware travel or “green travel”, has served to improve the competitiveness and marketing opportunities of national tourism destinations. This added incentive to promote eco-friendly tourism, has in turn increased investment in infrastructure (not completely happening in Costa Rica!), clean technologies, renewable energy, water management, as well as a host of other added benefits sustainable tourism can create.

Example of National Sustainability Conscience:

Finally, with millions of people travelling the globe each year, tourism is an ideal vehicle to further spread environmental awareness. The emergence of new consumption patterns is already evident in the world of tourism, with the emergence of marketing terms such as ‘responsible tourism’, ‘ecotourism’ ‘green travel’ and other marketing strategies that encourage and embrace sustainability. It has already been proven that sustainable tourism can encourage a worldwide change in travel consumption patterns.

Global Initiatives for Sustainability:

Other Important Information:

Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity:

More Information on the Sustainable Development of Tourism:

More Information on the International Year of Biodiversity:

Tourism Fighting Poverty
Lastly, one has to wonder, “How does tourism fight poverty?” The Convention of Biological Diversity noted how the world’s poor, particularly in rural areas, depend on biological resources for as much as 90% of their needs. Given this dependence on biodiversity for food, fuel, medicine, shelter and transportation, strategies that prioritize biodiversity are crucial for development and poverty alleviation. That is a primary reason the United Nations has chosen to focus on these important issues in its goal to alleviate extreme poverty through economically sound methods such as sustainable tourism.

Next Years Event
Official celebrations for 2011 World Tourism Day will be celebrated September 27th in Yemen in compliance with the UNWTO policy of rotating hemispheres each year.

You are Cordially Invited:
Hotel Makanda by the Sea invites all interested parties to take part this September 27th in the special celebrations taking place in their respective country, or better yet, why not choose the perfect model destination for this important event, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica! Special Offers are available throughout the country in celebration of World Tourism Day 2010!

Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.


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