The tourism sector is one of the most diverse verticals when it comes to events. There are dozens of events that attract hundreds of tourism brands and thousands of travelers worldwide. Each of these events has a unique theme, successfully addressing emerging trends in the sector year after year.
However, there is one event that transcends trends – World Tourism Day. This day is celebrated worldwide as tourism has become one of the essential branches of many countries’ economies.
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Have you ever wondered how everything started? How has Tourism Day become so popular? Below, you can find everything about this event and its pivotal role in the travel industry. You will be able to learn World Tourism Day’s historical context, objectives, role, and how to commemorate it.
Introduction to World Tourism Day (WTD)
World Tourism Day is a long-established event with a tradition that spans over 40 years. In fact, the first World Tourism Day was held on 27 September 1980. The organization behind the event is UNWTO, which decided to institute it as an event bound forever to explore the impact of tourism on our planet.
The event has been reflecting major tourism trends ever since it was established. What are the major tourism trends today? The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has curbed the growth of the sector. However, the travel industry is getting back on its feet. The global market size totaled $2 trillion, and the projections tell us the market will reach $2.3 trillion by 2023.
There is a change in generational trends as well. Almost half of Gen Zers look for travel recommendations on social networks, placing their trust in travel influencers. Over 60% of Millennials choose their destination by looking at the quality of the culinary scene.
One trend in particular, though, continues to rise year after year – sustainable travel. And we can see an increase in the number of sustainable travel options and activities offered. The numbers are stunning – over 80% of travelers see sustainable travel as important, while 50% are influenced by climate change news.
With this in mind, it’s logical to expect this year’s WTD to reflect at least one of these trends. It’s scheduled again for September 27, as it was the last year and the year before. Why is this so?
World Tourism Day September 27: By design or Coincidence
The organization that instituted WTD back in 1980 picked September 27 on purpose. You need an insight into UNWTO history to understand the significance of September 27. The World Tourism Organization, or UNWTO, has not always been around.
As a United Nations agency, it was established in 1970 when the UN adopted the UNWTO Statutes. More precisely, the UN adopted the UNWTO Statutes on September 27, 1970.
It’s an important milestone in global tourism, and the UNWTO General Assembly always aims to schedule World Tourism Day on this date. On the other hand, this date is perfect for one more reason. It marks the beginning of the travel season in the southern hemisphere and the end of the season in the northern hemisphere.
The purpose of World Tourism Day escapes many people involved in the sectors. Let’s see what it is about then. UNWTO’s primary goal is to communicate the importance of tourism, especially regarding factors that positively affect economic growth.
The purpose of UNWTO reflects the purpose of World Tourism Day. Simply put, it invites travel brands and a range of parties interested in the tourism sector to explore the potential impact of tourism, especially in the sectors of growth, economic recovery, inclusivity, accessibility, and sustainability.
The best way to understand the purpose of World Tourism Day is to get a closer look at its objectives.
The global objectives of WTD in detail
Three global objectives of WTD or primary fields of interest of people behind WTD are accessibility, sustainability, and inclusivity.
Accessibility is, in fact, accessible tourism. Why is this an objective of a global event such as WTD? Because the latest research indicates that over 1.3 billion people (16% of the world’s population) have a significant disability. Yet, 40% of these people refrain from traveling due to not knowing which barriers to expect. WTD promotes the idea of accessible tourism in two ways.
First, the event promotes the idea that every tourism product or service should be accessible to all. Secondly, it tries to make businesses realize that accessible tourism is an opportunity to embrace more visitors and boost the bottom line.
Next, WTD focuses on sustainable development. The goal is to enable everyone to understand the importance of sustainability principles and their establishment when it comes to achieving long-term sustainability in tourism.
WTD stresses that everyone should use environmental resources in the most optimal fashion, nurture the social-cultural authenticity of communities at destinations, and facilitate economic growth for stakeholders.
Finally, we have inclusivity as an objective that encompasses accessibility and sustainability. In fact, tourism as a sector can advance prosperity not only for businesses directly engaged in tourism but also for local communities, cities, and entire nations.
All of these objectives reflect the WTD 2023 theme, which is “Tourism & Green Investments”. Let’s see how WTD uses themes to communicate essential messages every year.
WTD 2023: Tourism & Green Investment
The theme of WTD 2023 is Tourism & Green Investment. What’s UNWTO trying to achieve by choosing this theme? Well, UNWTO carefully selected this year’s team because it wants to raise awareness that there is a need for better-targeted investments.
The investments in the sector should target people, prosperity, and plants. Meanwhile, UNWTO also calls for innovative solutions that should replace traditional investments.
Looking at the event’s history, you can clearly see that every year’s theme aligned with the relevant trends. In 2022, the theme was Rethinking Tourism; in 2021, it was Tourism for Inclusive Growth; and in 2020, Tourism and Rural Development.
This year’s theme, Tourism & Green Investment, perfectly aligns with current industry trends. In 2022, the global sustainable tourism market size reached $3.3 trillion, and it’s projected to grow at a CAGR of 14% to 2032 to reach $11.4 trillion.
Additionally, according to Google Trends, the term sustainable travel has grown by over 60% in global searches. The Sustainable Travel Report 2023 by Booking.com also highlights that 76% of travelers are more interested in sustainable travel alternatives, and over 500,000 accommodations worldwide have recognized sustainability efforts.
Finally, the 2022 overview of investments in the sectors tells us that accommodation is the most targeted sub-sector by investors with 59% of announced projects, followed by travel arrangement and reservations services and software publishers with 21% of announced investments.
Analysis of WTD’s role
WTD has a crucial role in helping everyone in the sector discover new business opportunities and pursue them in the best possible fashion while following the principles of sustainability, inclusions, and accessibility.
Take the Indian Ocean Blue Year in 2021–2022, for instance. It’s an excellent example where WTD and UNWTO actively assist coastal territories of the Western Indian Ocean to encourage sustainable tourism.
It’s an area where tourism generates a considerable percentage of GDP. For instance, the travel industry makes up 21.2% of the GDP in the Seychelles archipelago. The project facilitated inclusive local development.
The official World Tourism Day webpage, including the entire UNWTO website, often publishes best practices for businesses in the sector. Take Rethinking Tourism From Crisis to Transformation WTD 2022 report. The report features actionable data and insights and links to great resources such as Travel Insights for Recovery and the Tourism Job Recovery Program.
The majority of WTD’s efforts aim to ensure responsible and sustainable tourism. The above-mentioned report, for instance. Members of UNWTO worked hand in hand with:
- African Members to help them pave a new way for Tourism in Africa;
- The members in the Americas signed the Declaration of Punta Cana in 2021, thus committing to base sustainable development on tourism;
- Asian and Pacific members to diversify their tourism sectors;
- European members to help restart tourism based on an ethical and sustainable model;
- Middle Eastern members to help with tourism development in this sector by providing support and skills development programs.
How to commemorate WTD?
There are plenty of ways to commemorate WTD as a travel brand. You can raise awareness of the 2023 WTD theme using social media channels. It’s an excellent opportunity to directly engage with travelers and learn about their expectations regarding sustainable travel.
As a travel brand, you can also minimize your carbon footprint. Whether you organize tree-planting events, optimize the use of air conditioning in your offices, or add more sustainable travel products to your offer, make sure to share them with your followers and email subscribers.
Every year, the WTD official webpage features three actions you can take to commemorate WTD. This year, you can celebrate #WTD23 by sharing content via social media, joining the celebration, or joining the #WTD photo filter campaign.
Challenges and Criticisms
It’s hard to talk about any challenges or criticism related to WTD. After all, WTD has a long tradition and great support from UNWTO. When it comes to this year’s theme, Tourism & Green Investment, we could point out a few possible challenges.
Less popular destinations in rural areas can experience problems competing with other popular destinations among sustainable travelers. Issues could arise from underdeveloped infrastructure, lack of interest among investors, governments failing to understand the tourism potential, and local communities being skeptical about welcoming strangers.
However, making tourism more accessible and inclusive is not that big of a challenge. Travel brands can set small goals and achieve them through collaboration. Local communities can engage with governments to make their destinations more inclusive and welcoming.
WTD is an event with a tradition that has lasted for 40 years after its establishment. With a focus on sustainability, inclusion, and accessibility, WTD helps both member and non-member countries realize the potential of tourism for ways to increase GDP. However, UNWTO leverages WTD to help all stakeholders understand the power of sustainable and restorative travel.
With almost 80% of travelers looking for sustainable travel products and services and the sustainable travel market size passing the $2 trillion milestone, it’s crucial to have an event that exclusively focuses on this trend.
This year’s WTD is around the corner. If you share the same values as WTD, feel free to take an active part in celebrating #WTD23 and spreading the message.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Besides joining the WTD, which would be the most obvious way to get involved with the event, you have other options to commemorate WTD. You can spread the message via social media and engage with your followers. You can also minimize your carbon footprint while looking for relevant investment opportunities.
All WTD campaigns from previous years were successful, especially those following the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped cushion its blow. The WTD 2020 successfully communicated how vital tourism is in preserving culture and heritage, WTD 2021 helped restart tourism, and WTD 2022 brought back the focus on nature.
Despite the central theme, UNWTO and WTD promote sustainable tourism every year. UNWTO uses WTD promotional materials to communicate resource efficiency practices, the importance of preserving biodiversity at locations, climate action initiatives, global tourism plastics initiatives, and hotel energy solutions.
All the information you need to plan WTD events is available on the official WTD website. You can access concept notes, info notes, and a preliminary program to learn specifics about this year’s theme.