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International tourism arrivals hit record high in 2017

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The number of people travelling abroad has hit its highest level since 2010, according to data from the Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a specialized agency of the United Nations.

The latest edition of its Tourism Highlights, published on Monday, shows international arrivals reached 1.323 million last year.

The figure represents an 84 million increase over 2016, and a new record, with the sector also recording “uninterrupted growth” in arrivals for eight consecutive years.

Europe and Africa led the regions with increases in arrivals, with growth of eight per cent and nine per cent, respectively.

WTO added that tourism is the world’s third largest export category, earning $1.3 trillion in receipts in 2017: an increase of five per cent.

Meanwhile, total exports from international tourism stood at $1.6 trillion, or an average of $4 billion a day: that is, seven per cent of the world’s exports.

“These strong 2017 results were driven by sustained travel demand for destinations across all world regions, including a firm recovery by those that have suffered from security challenges in recent years,” WTO said in a press release.

“Strong outbound demand from virtually all source markets, including rebounds from major emerging economies Brazil and the Russian Federation, benefited both advanced and emerging destinations.”

Seven of the 10 top tourism destinations are also leaders worldwide in both international tourist arrivals and international tourism receipts: China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

China also was responsible for generating nearly one-fifth of the world’s total tourism spending in 2017. Citizens of the world’s most populous country spent $258 billion on international travel last year.

WTO added that so far, 2018 shows international tourism continues to grow, “with a year-on-year increase of 6% in arrivals between January and April.”

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Global Tourism Plastics Initiative Takes On One of the Worst Polluters

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The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative is ground-breaking and ambitious in its goals. It aims to reduce the amount of plastic pollution caused by the tourism sector. To achieve this vision, tourism companies and destinations will be required to make a set of concrete and actionable commitments by 2025, including to: 

Eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and items by 2025; 

Take action to move from single-use to reuse models or reusable alternatives by 2025; 

Engage the value chain to move towards 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable; 

Take action to increase the amount of recycled content across all plastic packaging and items used; 

Commit to collaborate and invest to increase the recycling and composting rates for plastics; 

Report publicly and annually on progress made towards these targets. 

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative is a unique opportunity for tourism companies and destinations to step forward and lead the global effort addressing plastic pollution. Frontrunning tourism companies and destinations will set quantifiable targets as part of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative and accelerate the transformation of the tourism sector towards more integrated solutions and circular business models.”

The Initiative is a key activity of the Sustainable Tourism Programme of the One Planet Network and it acts as the interface for the tourism sector of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 

The New Plastics Economy Programme Manager Gerald Naber said: “The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment unites more than 450 businesses, governments and others behind a clear vision of a circular economy for plastics. We welcome the launch of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, led by UNEP and UNWTO, which unites the tourism sector behind this vision for a world in which plastic never becomes waste or pollution. It will be a challenging journey, but through concerted action, we can eliminate the plastics we don’t need and innovate, so the plastics we do need can be safely and easily circulated – keeping them in the economy and out of the environment.” 

The Director of UN Environment’s Economy Division Director, Ms. Ligia Noronha, added: “Plastic pollution is one of the major environmental challenges of our time, and tourism has an important role to play in contributing to the solution. Through the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, tourism companies and destinations are supported so they can innovate, eliminate and circulate the way they use plastics.” 

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King of Spain Signals Strong Support For UNWTO’s Tourism Ambitions

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Held to mark the 40th anniversary of FITUR, one of the world’s leading tourism trade fair and the first one to be held every year, the dinner also saw Ministers from around the world join public and private sector leaders to celebrate tourism’s status as a key pillar of the global sustainable development agenda. 

This is the first time UNWTO and FITUR have hosted a royal dinner and comes just weeks after UNWTO and the Government of Spain ensured tourism was part of the conversation at the COP25 UN Climate Summit, also held in Madrid. 

UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, thanked His Majesty and the Government of Spain for their strong commitment to UNWTO’s mission: “Your presence is an inspiration and a further reminder of our shared responsibility to continue improving tourism for the benefit of all. UNWTO is privileged to be based in Spain, a true world leader in tourism, and Madrid is also home to FITUR, a platform that brings tourism leaders together every year and sets the international agenda for our sector and its role in the world”. 

HRH King Felipe VI commended UNWTO on its work to place tourism at the centre of sustainable development, adding Spain is proud to host the United Nations specialized agency for responsible and inclusive tourism. 

He said: “The tourism sector is a source of wealth and employment, it is a tool for social cohesion, for the consolidation of the population, for fighting against climate change and inequality; It is an accelerator in the achievement of the SDGs and digital transformation.

Also yesterday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced his support for UNWTO’s plans to host a Global Tourism Forum. “The Davos of tourism”, as Mr Sánchez labeled it, will have its first edition in the final months of this year. This event shows the commitment of UNWTO’s host country to fostering tourism for sustainable development, underscoring the sector’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda against the backdrop of the Decade for Action, with just ten remaining years to achieve the Agenda’s Global Goals. 

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Tourism Can Be Key Part of New EU Green Deal

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The Green Deal will form an integral part of the Commission’s strategy to implement the UN’s 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals and pledges to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. Recognizing the role that tourism will play in achieving this, UNWTO used the occasion of FITUR to provide a platform for EU and non-EU stakeholders, including representatives from both the public and private sectors. Established at the start of a new five-year period for the European Commission, this platform will advocate for tourism to be a central part of the Green Deal.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The tourism sector has an obligation to use its unique power to lead the response to the climate emergency and ensure responsible growth. UNWTO is committed to accelerating progress towards low carbon emission tourism, and I am delighted to see that, in this regard, UNWTO and the European Commission are on the same page.

The Secretary of State for Tourism of Spain, the country that hosts UNWTO, Isabel Oliver, added: “A more prominent presence in the political structure of the European Union would allow the importance of tourism to be put on the agenda as a lever to achieve the challenges that European policy has identified, including the Green Deal.

The FITUR event also provided a platform for Croatia, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, to present its priorities for tourism. Frano Matusic, Secretary of State for Tourism of Croatia, addressed his fellow Ministers and public and private sector leaders, highlighting his country’s commitment to sustainability and low-carbon growth.

Mr. Matusic, said: “Tourism is a significant economic factor in the world GDP, but at the same time it affects the preservation of cultural heritage, the environment, the labor market, infrastructure, etc. As these challenges are common to all Member States, it is important to address these issues in a systematic manner at the both European and global level. Implementation and promotion of sustainable development policies are the backbone of Croatia’s EU Council Presidency in the field of tourism, and Croatia will therefore continue to strengthen its co-operation initiative precisely to ensure tourism’s success in the future.

According to the latest UNWTO data, the EU28 Member States received 577 million international tourists in 2019, a 3% increase on the previous year. In 2018, receipts generated by international tourism generated 407 billion euros across all 28 states, around 33% of the world total. The UNWTO data also shows that Europe continues to be the leading global region for tourist numbers, welcoming 51% of all arrivals in 2019.  

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