– by Lakshman Ratnapala
January 5, 2013, 6:01 pm
Despite the current global economic uncertainty, more than one billion tourists traveled the world last year, 2012, marking a new record for international tourism.
The figure cements tourism’s position as one of the world’s largest economic sectors, accounting for 9% of global GDP, one in every 12 jobs, 30% of the world’s service exports, and up to 8% of the total exports of the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
Recalling the positive impact even the smallest action can have if multiplied by one billion, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) had launched the One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities campaign to celebrate the milestone, showing tourists that respecting local culture, preserving heritage or buying local goods when traveling can make a big difference. The public were asked to vote for the Travel Tip that would have the greatest benefit for the people and places they visit and to pledge to follow that tip when traveling.
The winning tip was Buy Local, encouraging tourists to buy food and souvenirs locally, or hire local guides, to ensure their spending translates into jobs and income for host communities. A close second, Respect Local Culture, calls on tourists to learn more about their destination’s traditions, or some words in the local language before leaving home.
As it was impossible to know exactly where the one-billionth tourist arrived, many countries celebrated the occasion by welcoming tourists arriving on December 13th. WTO celebrated in Madrid, Spain—home to its headquarters—by welcoming the symbolic one-billionth tourist in the Museo del Prado, Madrid’s most visited tourism attraction.
The writer who is Emeritus President and CEO of the Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA), served many years ago as the Tourist Board’s representative in New York in the seventies. He has worked in several Lankan newspapers and also served the Information Department as a press officer in the 1965-70 period.