Today, 27 September, the world celebrates - or at least recognises World Tourism Day. This annual event was created by
the United Nations to recognise and develop the role that tourism plays in the development of nations and people, and this year the celebrations take place under the title "One Billion Tourists - One Billion Opportunities".
In itself, the thought of one billion camera-weilding visitors is frightening, but if one looks at the financial impacts of tourism, it creates all sorts of incredible opportunities for destinations to take advantage of. However - and this is an annual concern, the real impacts of tourism are often those that bring-about a decline in the living standards of many communities through environmental damage, cultural erosion and the lack of true transparency and benefit from the billions of dollars spent globally.
Let us remember that every tourist to this region impacts our energy, water, waste and cultural identity is some way or other. Often, while they also bring development and business opportunities, the negative impacts that they create last many years after the joy of tourism numbers fade. With a billion tourists comes massive responsibility on the part of every tourism executive, planner or national department to ensure that the true benefits of tourism are felt to the very bottom of the experience chain, and that the negative impacts are minimised or avoided through careful planning, control and awareness.
So today when you are thinking tourism, spare a thought for the environment and your local community. If you take the time, you will find ways to help minimise the impacts of tourism while ensuring greater beneficiation.