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IY2017: What difference does it make? What difference can you make?

IY2017: What difference does it make? What difference can you make?

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Day 300.

By the time this piece is published, day 300 of 365 of the United Nations’ International Year of Sustainable Tourism For Development (IY2017) will have passed. The final weeks of the most important year in the lives of many within the global Travel & Tourism (T&T) community will be loudly ticking to a final countdown.

Sadly, the spotlight of 2017 on global T&T is readying to shift to a new year, IY2018 readying for activation.

But we are not there yet. There are still 65 days to go.

And there is still work to be done.

At the beginning of 2017, the hopes for IY2017 were clear. As stated by the Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, in his official IY2017 message:

“Every day, more than three million tourists cross international borders. Every year, almost 1.2 billion people travel abroad. Tourism has become a pillar of economies, a passport to prosperity, and a transformative force for improving millions of lives.

The world can and must harness the power of tourism as we strive to carry out the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals include targets that relate to tourism: Goal 8 on promoting growth and decent work, Goal 12 on ensuring sustainable consumption and production, and Goal 14 on conserving marine resources.

But tourism also cuts across so many different areas of life, and involves so many different economic sectors and socio-cultural currents, that it is connected to the entire Agenda. Beyond the measurable advances that tourism can make possible, it is also a bridge to better mutual understanding among people from all walks of life.

Proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development (2017) is a crucial moment to make this important sector a force for good. Together, we can make tourism an effective and dynamic tool in building a safer, more inclusive, prosperous and sustainable world for all.”

Over the course of 2017, through the leadership of the UNWTO, IY2017 has seen the global T&T sector – tourism, aviation, and other critical links in the chain – work to engage sector and non-sector stakeholders across the UN system, across government, the business community, academia, NGOs, and across the media, around understanding, embedding and activating approaches to leverage the power of T&T at economic, social, cultural and environment levels, now and into the future.

Importantly, the global travelling community has also been engaged as a critical stakeholder of ensuring that T&T works as a force for good, for all – travellers and destinations alike. For the first time ever, a single initiative has been activated to connect the over 1.2 billion international travellers worldwide, and the over 6 billion domestic travellers, around the need to take personal responsibility for the need to respect people and places. #TRAVELENJOYRESPECT campaign

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The ROI on IY2017 is not purely about the Return On Investment made into 2017’s events, initiatives, good intentions. It is about the Return On Inspiration – the impact that will come from people within and outside being made aware of, inter alia:

• the scope of definition of ‘sustainability’ in the context of T&T: economic, social and cultural, not purely environmental,

• the need to ensure that policies and practices are in place to enable synergies for T&T sustainable growth and development through cross-sector cooperation, collaboration and communication across governments, businesses and other entities, and

• the responsibility of individuals, not just industry, to preserve, protect and promote the values and behaviours of responsible, respectful travel.

As the global T&T sector looks forward to the remainder of the year, with a window of time and opportunity still available to make a sustainable difference, now is the perfect time to stop and ask, honestly ask, what different has it really made? How will the UN’s IY2017, focusing on sustainable tourism for global development, upliftment and unity, be sustained?

The answer is not only about the actions. It is about the ownership.

In 2017 it was the UNWTO, on behalf of the UN, championing IY2017.

In 2018, and far beyond, the ownership can, and must, shift to individual nations, individual businesses, individual travellers – to each and every one of us.

It’s not about what difference did IY2017 make?

The question must be: what difference can we make, because of IY2017, in 2018 and beyond:

• Through our spheres of influence?
• Through our travels?
• Through our professional and personal networks?
• Through our words, our actions, our intentions, our interconnections?

The sustainability of IY2017 is in our hands. There is still work to be done.

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