Each year on 27 September World Tourism Day is held to raise awareness of both the benefits and impact of global tourism, with a different theme each year.
The dedicated tourism day was created by United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and since 1980 each year has focussed on a particular theme, such as cultural heritage quality of life, education, tolerance and peace. The theme for the 34th World Tourism Day 2013 is ‘Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future.’
Each year a different destination is selected to host the official WTD celebrations and this year the Maldives will host. The 1,200 tropical islands that make up the Maldives in the Indian Ocean are all too aware of the impact of water and ecological effects as changes in sea level threaten their very existence. None of the islands are more than 1.8 meters (6 feet) above sea level and around a third of the Maldives economy is dependent on tourism. The Maldives knows first-hand what will happen if the world does not proactively tackle climate change. The Maldives plays host to more than half a million tourists every year, drawn to its immaculate beaches, tropical reefs and relaxed atmosphere. But the IPCC (UN International Panel on Climate Change) predicts a potential catastrophe; global climate change could bring an increase in sea levels of 58cm (22.8in). This could see the majority of the country’s 1,192 islands submerged by the next century, which would leave 369,000 people homeless.
The theme this year is designed to raise awareness and educate travellers about tourism and the impacts of water access. It will also highlight the current actions underway within the tourism sector to ensure a sustainable water future.
This is especially poignant as the number of people travelling topped one billion for the first time ever last year. In 2012 a total of 1.035 billion passengers travelled the world, which represents a growth of 4% over the previous year. Further growth is expected this year, with an additional 4% rise predicted.
The official UNWTO World Tourism Day site has more details on this year’s theme as well as the official messages from the Secretary General. There is also a section on how to get involved this year, such as holding an event or even running a competition. There are also useful tips and advice on saving water, which is applicable both when travelling and at home to. Simple tips such as taking a short shower instead of a bath, turning the tap off when brushing your teeth and wearing clothes, using towels and linen a little longer, to reduce washing.
Follow World Tourism Day 2013 on Twitter and add #WTD2013 to your Twitter messages.
Be part of the event on the official Facebook page.