UNWTO centred tourism as a key pillar of sustainable development at the 5th United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries.
The conference, held in Doha around the theme of “From Potential to Prosperity” came at the pivotal half-way point in the timeline to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and fully implement the 2030 agenda. With the sector accounting for 7% of total exports, and as much as 10% for non-oil exporting LDCs, tourism has proven its power to drive development. The crosscutting and labour-intensive nature of tourism also creates links to many other economic sectors and positions it as a valuable contributor to national development strategies and support to entrepreneurs, the backbone of the sector. Tourism has been one of the key factors enabling the graduation of LDCs which are also Small Island Developing States, including Cabo Verde, Samoa, Maldives and most recently Vanuatu.
The UN Conference brought together Heads of State, governments, civil society organizations, entrepreneurs, students, youth and policy makers. In Doha, UNWTO participated in the UN principals meeting, several high-level events and thematic roundtables with sector partners, to help finance, build engagement and bolster sustainable long-term support for the LDCs. Key issues raised included climate action, innovation, new financing mechanisms, education youth empowerment, digitalization, and capacity building.
Private sector partnerships
Within the Private Sector Forum Sustainable Tourism Session “Achieving universal access to clean and affordable energy through partnerships” co-organized by UNWTO, participants included – distinguished representatives from TUI Care Foundation, Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia and Asian Development Bank. Discussions focused on the potential for innovative partnerships to support sustainable recovery, shape better policies and fiscal incentives for the private sector to rebound. UNWTO was proud to announce ‘Tourism for Development Fund’ for Least Developed Countries supporting projects in LDCs with at least €10 million until 2030 in collaboration with the TUI Care Foundation.
UNWTO also hosted a special side event on “Harnessing Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Tourism as Tools for Sustainable Development in LDCs” with the support of Qatar Tourism. Here Startups from the UNWTO SDGs Global Startups Competition pitched their solutions helping to drive change in their countries alongside a panel discussion on how Innovation and Partnerships in Tourism can accelerate economic development. Participating startups included SEMA (Uganda), Community Homestay Network (Nepal), At hause Ltd. (Uganda).
Chief Operating Officer of Qatar Tourism, Berthold Trenkel, said: “By 2030, Qatar Tourism aims to increase the number of visitors to the destination threefold to over six million visitors a year, increase spending by three to four times and grow the travel and tourism sector contribution to GDP from 7 to 12%. Most importantly, we want to double employment in the tourism sector, all while continuing to position Qatar as a global leader in Service Excellence. To achieve this ambitious goal, Qatar Tourism aims to boost the entire tourism value chain, grow local and international visitor demand, attract sector investment, and drive a multiplier effect across the domestic economy.”
LDC5 represents a once-in-a-decade chance for the world’s most vulnerable to realign to global priorities. UNWTO is fully committed to accelerating the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action, by focusing on innovation, digitalization and new financing models to support Least Developed countries’ economic growth and graduation.