Message by UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai

In 2013, World Tourism Day will be celebrated around the theme Tourism & Water: Protecting our Common Future. This offers a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on water both as an asset and as a resource and on the actions needed to face up to the water challenge.

Water is one of tourism’s main assets. Each year, millions of people travel around the world to enjoy water destinations both inland and in coastal areas. Water is also one of tourism’s most precious resources. Water powers all tourism industries, from hotels to restaurants, leisure activities and transport. As one of the largest economic sectors in the world, it is the responsibility of the tourism sector to take a leadership role and ensure companies and destinations invest in adequate water management throughout the value chain. If managed sustainably, tourism can bring benefits to the national and local communities and support water preservation.

UNWTO is one of the strongest proponents of sustainable water use and a member of United Nations Water. We have been closely following and supporting the many systems already in place which are helping to cut water consumption and improve waste management in hotels, restaurants and more. Low flush toilets, low flow showerheads and leak detection instruments are today integral parts of most businesses. These advancements have been driven by tourism innovations.

As we celebrate the 2013 United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation, I urge all those involved in the tourism sector to join our global World Tourism Day campaign and continue to devise innovate solutions to ensuring tourism contributes to sustainable access to water resources worldwide. Unless we do so, the quality and quantity of available freshwater will continue to drain, threatening the delicate ecosystems enjoyed by all, tourism included.

Water underpins our lives – let’s protect our common future.

Taleb Rifai
World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)