The global tourism industry will soon have a new leader, with seven candidates bidding to become the next Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization.
Talking to Travel Daily this week, one of the candidates, Alain St Ange, vowed to place sustainability at the top of the agenda. Outlining his manifesto, the former minister of tourism for the Seychelles said that it is time for the UNWTO and member states to “push the point” of sustainable tourism, as a means of promoting long-term prosperity and alleviating poverty.
Commenting on the continued expansion of the tourism industry, in terms of cross-border arrivals, St Ange said that growth would only be sustainable if the tourism industry works for all.
“The growth today is still sustainable, but for how long?” St Ange asked. “The numbers game will be unsustainable if we are not looking at ploughing back returns into towns and villages to ensure the people see themselves as part and parcel of their tourism industry.
“In the Seychelles a few years ago we launched an appeal for the people to claim back their tourism industry. This brought about many a small business and got the people involved instead of them being just bystanders.”
The Seychellois candidate also used his home country as an example of positive environmental practices, after the islands protected its land and took steps to curb mass tourism.
“The islands are small with a fragile eco-system and yet depend on tourism which has become the pillar of its economy,” St Ange told Travel Daily. “We know that the numbers game in tourism is not enough and for that we do not allow charter flights and support instead regular carriers. We have… introduced our very own sustainable tourism label for establishments to ensure they become good custodians of what our islands have been blessed with.”
St Ange also identified safety and security, equality, training, and cross-sectorial interaction as being key to the future of the industry, and vowed to try to bring non-UNWTO member states, such as the US, into the fold.