A strengthened partnership between the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has placed a renewed focus on sustainable tourism.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the UNWTO secretary-general and the UNESCO director general, with the aim of together developing sustainable tourism initiatives and the protection of natural and cultural heritage.
National, regional and global initiatives will be launched and there will be a few key areas of focus.
For example, the UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme will be implemented. This plan aims to generate increased awareness of this style of tourism, while promoting balanced participation from all stakeholders - from local to global.
That means local communities can benefit from the preservation of their natural and cultural value through a sustainably developing tourism industry, while at the same time visitors are provided with a quality experience.
Next, transnational tourism initiatives will be developed. One such scheme will be to promote and protect the shared heritage of the Silk Roads Heritage Corridors. The Silk Road is a set of historical trade routes stretching from the east to the west of Asia, and includes countries like China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
In addition, UNESCO and UNWTO will work to identify and develop sustainable tourism initiatives and activities in biosphere reserves, examples of which include the Mojave Desert in the US or Mont Ventoux in France.
Sustainable tourism will also be promoted generally through United Nations partnerships, such as the UN Steering Committee on Tourism for Development and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism.
UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, commented on the importance of sustainable tourism.
"Tourism can play a significant role in the preservation, conservation and promotion of cultural and natural assets and this agreement further strengthens our capacity to integrate sustainable tourism principles with the protection of the world's heritage," he said.