International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development

Did you know that the United Nations has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development? The purpose of which is to raise awareness of the contribution of sustainable tourism to development among public and private sector decision-makers and the public, while mobilizing all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for change.


Why did the U.N. dedicate an entire year to tourism and its impact on development? Well, as we have written about in the past, tourism is one of the largest industries in the world representing 7% of total world exports, supporting one in every eleven jobs, and has almost twice as many women employers as other sectors.  Thus tourism has a tremendous capability to influence development and the U.N. wants to support changes in policy, business practices and, consumer behavior towards a more sustainable tourism sector that can contribute to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.  In case you didn’t know the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 goals to be achieved from 2015 to 2030 which include some of the following:

  • End poverty in all its forms everywhere

  • End hunger and achieve food security and improved nutrition

  • Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, marine resources for sustainable development

  • Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization

The U.N. through the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) will implement the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by focusing on tourism's role in these key areas:

  • Inclusive and sustainable economic development

  • Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction

  • Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change

  • Cultural values, diversity, and heritage

  • Mutual understanding, peace and security


This past June, Backpacking with the Bonds attended the Tourism Knowledge Exchange 2017: Delivering on Inclusion through Tourism hosted by the World Bank in Washington, DC. The event was part of the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and several speakers were invited to speak on various viewpoints such as government, corporate, and international organization focused on inclusion, sustainability, and tourism.

From the government perspective, we heard from the Minister of Tourism Jamaica who spoke about the country’s strategy to enhance the economic impact of tourism.  Part of that strategy includes strengthening the linkages the tourism industry has to local businesses.

Clark Stevens the Director of Government Relations for Airbnb spoke about the economic impact Airbnb has had worldwide. He cited importantly that Airbnb-ers spend 50% of their expenditures in the immediate neighborhood they stay in. Allowing for non-traditional tourist neighborhoods to benefit from tourism to their cities.  Another important aspect Clark spoke about was the rise in women hosts on Airbnb.

Another speaker, representing Chemonics who have partnered with USAID to enhance sustainable tourism in Jordan spoke about initiatives they have spearheaded the support female entrepreneurs taking part in the tourism industry.

As you can see, there are lots of programs and business opportunities worldwide that are expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs to engage in tourism.

How can you contribute towards sustainable tourism this year?