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Leaders magnifying the meaning & momentum of IY2017: The Power of One

Leaders magnifying the meaning & momentum of IY2017: The Power of One

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With the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism For Development (IY2017) in its last 100 days, the question that all leaders and travel lovers within the global tourism community need to be asking themselves is simply this: how do we sustain the awareness, the action, and the impact generated in IY2017?

At national, local, and individual levels, how do we ensure our sector continues to act as a critical lever for sustainable, purposeful advancement of people and places, economically, socially, culturally and environmentally? What is the call to duty? And is it too much to ask?

With this question in mind, the role of leaders across the global T&T world becomes all the more important. With their great profiles, personalities, principles and powers of influence, it is these ladies and gentlemen who will be looked to as a sign of how far, wide and long the legacy of IY2017 will last.

IY2017 has shown how, while championed by the UNWTO on behalf of the UN system, it is everyone’s responsibility, as entities and individuals, to carry the message of the UN’s chief messenger for Tourism. Key to success of IY2017 being successfully and sustainably carried across the sector, within both public and private sector spheres, is relationships already existing between the leaders themselves. It is the shared respect, trust and vision of tourism as an enduring force for good for the better of the global community that makes IY2017 beyond 2017 possible.

One such leader at the forefront of shaping tourism for tomorrow is Gerald Lawless, Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) – the private sector mirror of the UNWTO. A global citizen and lifetime tourism practitioner with hotelier roots and an Irish heart, Lawless possesses over four decades of leadership experience, experience excellence delivery now a part of his DNA. Inspiring, innovating and generating global impact, Lawless has been entrusted as President and Group Chief Executive Officer of the Middle-East based, luxury defining, Jumeirah Group, elevated more recently to leadership of Tourism and Hospitality in Dubai Holding, the Group’s parent company.

Why such focus on Lawless’ CV? Simple. His undeniable realization of the responsibility that he had, as a leader, to ensure the legacy of IY2017 endures.


As stated by Lawless:

“I have always understood and believed in the value of T&T to the economic development of the global community. But IY2017 has shown me that the true value of our great industry lies in the sustainability of tourism. To me, sustainability has two main aspects: one is environmental and the other is socioeconomic. We must not destroy the very product we are promoting so it is obvious that we need to preserve our planet so that present and future generations can enjoy all it has to offer but we must do so in a responsible manner. The socio-economic aspect is so closely linked to sustainability that the two should not even be separated. There is a direct connectivity between economic benefits and environmental challenges.”
Lawless continues:

“Sustainability it about our future and that of our planet, and therefore it is about the existence of life! I see IY2017 as the new beginning of a journey. As industry leaders, we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to care and to act accordingly. I am often reminded of the Neil Young song (After the Gold Rush) where he sings ” look at Mother Nature on the Run in the 1970s”. Almost fifty years ago on we surely need to do more than sing about it! We now have the awareness that has been created around IY2017 so it’s time for us as leaders to do exactly that…lead by example. Adopt a cause! Check out the SDGs (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals), all of them, not just 8, 12 and 14 (being directly related to Tourism). Goal number 1 is the Eradication of Poverty. We are certainly major influencers in that regard.”


Ultimately, taking a position to work for our shared world for a better tomorrow must, absolutely must, be a personal choice. There needs to be a resonance with one’s own belief system. There is no right or wrong when it comes to choices made regarding what to support. The only wrong is taking a ’do nothing’ approach.

For this reason, as a magnification of IY2017, earlier this year the WTTC launched its “Is It Too Much To Ask?” campaign ( ), sharing that:

“For decades, the Travel & Tourism sector has been trying to make sustainable and responsible practices more mainstream. It shouldn’t be called ‘sustainable tourism’ as a niche, but rather just ‘tourism. If all of us, individually, endeavored to make Travel & Tourism an even greater force for good in the world, we could make a real impact. This is why we identified the key issues that are threatening the sector (and the planet!) and came up with 10 pledges that, if we all join together and commit to them, will result in great impact on both the sector and the world. HOWEVER, we know these are not the only things we could be doing – we just know they’re not too much to ask of people. SO, help us come up with more for a chance to add the 11th pledge on this site for other people to sign up to it.”

Pick one, any one. It’s all about the power of one, one by one by one by one.

While a tourism leader, he is also a citizen, with the opportunity for personal choices of purposeful impact. As stated by Lawless:

“My cause for the remainder of my time as Chairman of the WTTC is to work with CITES for the eradication of wildlife poaching. I also look forward to engaging with the amazing Pierre Tamis in Pnom Phen where he has established The Cambodia Institute of Culinary Art. Here he is training young Cambodians as chefs so that they may be employed within the growing Cambodian Tourism industry.”

Committing to a better tomorrow, for all, is not about policies and regulation. It is about principles and values. Is it too much to ask?

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