Among the largest and fastest growing sectors in the world, tourism contributes 10% of global GDP, 7% of global exports and accounts for one in every 10 jobs worldwide. Its capacity to attract significant investment, generate jobs, increase exports and adopt new and emerging technologies makes it an important pillar for economic growth and development, particularly for least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS).
However this growth is not without its impacts. UN Environment research has indicated that the tourism sector’s consumption of key resources – energy, water, land and materials (such as fossil fuels, minerals, metals and biomass) – is growing commensurately with its generation of solid waste, sewage, loss of biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions. In a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario, tourism would generate through 2050 an increase of 154% in energy consumption, 131% in greenhouse gas emissions, 152% in water consumption and 251% in solid waste disposal. This is why sustainability must now define tourism development in the 21st century.
UN Environment aims to mainstream sustainability into tourism development by demonstrating the economic, environmental and socio-cultural benefits of sustainable tourism. We support governments and other institutional stakeholders at local, regional and international levels. We promote sustainable consumption and production patterns in the tourism value chain. We develop public and private partnerships, and UN Environment encourages demand for sustainable tourism products and services.