World Tourism Day is a day set aside by the United Nation's World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to create worldwide awareness on the significance of tourism to economic development, promotion of international understanding, world peace and universal respect for, and observance of human rights/fundamental freedom for all without discrimination to race, sex, language or religion.
Its purpose is to foster awareness among the international community on the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. The event seeks to address global challenges outlined in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (Goal 7) "ensuring environmental sustainability", and to highlight the contribution of tourism sector in order to reach these goals.
Held annually on September 27th, UNWTO official celebration is taking place in Maspalomas, Spain this year and the events will feature World Tourism Day photo competition and the Twitter competition. It will also provide a platform to access to resources on the relationship between tourism and energy.
According to the minister of culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke at the celebration of the 35th edition of the World Tourism Day (WTD) on Thursday, Makurdi, Benue state, "the rapid growth of the modern tourism industry shows that International tourist arrivals grew by over four percent in 2011 to 980 million, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. With growth expected to continue in 2012, at a somewhat slower rate, international tourist arrivals are on track to reach the one billion mark later this year.
The unique characteristic of the tourism industry is that while it has grown in numbers, it has also grown in variety of destinations, as there has been a continued geographical spread of tourism to all parts of the world making it possible for many countries, especially developing countries, to develop tourism as a viable engine for socio-economic development."
Speaking further, he said 'tourism is leading the way in some of the world's most innovative sustainable energy initiatives such as energy efficient upgrade to aircrafts, the shift to renewable fuel for aviation and cruise liners, energy technology solutions in hotels, as well as countless other initiatives are placing tourism at the forefront of the clean energy transformation. These initiatives are crucial for sustainable development, helping to cut tourism's carbon emissions, enabling businesses to grow and create jobs, and bringing modern and affordable energy services to some of the world's most vulnerable communities - goals in line with the 2012 United Nations International Year of Sustainable Energy for All."
This year's theme is in recognition of the fact that, tourism is one of the world's largest economic sectors which has taken important steps towards the future by improving energy efficiency and increasingly using renewable energy technologies in its operations. These steps are creating jobs, lifting people out of poverty and helping to protect the planet.
Duke in his keynote address emphasised the need to visit the online energy school. 'This year, UNWTO is inviting everyone to visit the 'online energy school' as part of Hotel Energy Solutions. It is a UNWTO-initiated project designed to help hoteliers cut their carbon emissions and costs. Tourism has to adapt to the conditions of climate change by reducing its emissions of hothouse gas, which at present represents five percent of the total emission. However, tourism not only contributes to global warming, it is also a victim of it."
He also reiterated Federal Government's transformation agenda with respect to tourism. "Suffice it to mention some notable keystone initiatives which the Federal Government of Nigeria has undertaken under Mr. President's Transformation Agenda with respect to the Tourism Sector.
These milestones include the presidential approval granted for the establishment of the Tourism Development Fund. When operational, this will provide the necessary funding mechanism for stakeholders to improve infrastructure and ancillary services in the sector. Additionally is the introduction of a new visa regime. This new Federal Government policy allows visitors to be granted visas on arrival at our border points, like airports, land and sea borders. This measure policy will surely boost tourism in all ramifications as obtains in other climes."
Let me also mention the benefit of Tourism from the SURE-P Programme. The Tourism sector is to benefit through the training of about 5000 youth in different aspects of tourism skills acquisition. These youth will be drawn from all parts of Nigeria and trained before 2013.
This has never been done before and deserves commendation. Also, the Tourism Development Master Plan implementation is on course to providing the catalyst for proper tourism development across the different clusters identified in the Master Plan document. All stakeholders are keyed into this very crucial process."
Lastly, he seeks for peace whilst applauding Benue State government on its drive towards the development of tourism. "My Ministry applauds the initiatives and commitment of the Benue State Government towards the development of tourism particularly in transforming the "Food Basket of the Nation" into a desired tourism destination. Such initiatives would obviously promote domestic tourism in the country.
However, the success of the effort depends on its sustainability, and the ability to engender the necessary peace and security to attract tourists and potential investors to the tourism sector of the state.
I implore all tourism stakeholders to play their part in reaching the United Nations Goal of achieving sustainable energy for all by 2030. Endeavour to visit as many tourist sites in the state as may be possible, and purchase at least one of the colorful textile materials/various promotional souvenirs available, " he said.