Tourism officials from more than 50 countries worldwide will gather at Lisbon´s Congress Centre from 8 to 11 March to share experiences and best practices in sustainable tourism as a tool for development. The meeting is being organized by UNCTAD as part of its efforts to help developing countries take advantage of the growth in international tourism. Participants will make recommendations on how UNCTAD can improve those efforts. The Government of Portugal is providing financial support and logistical arrangements.
Tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing industries in the world and an increasingly important source of income and employment in many countries, including the developing ones. Its benefits, however, are unevenly distributed among host countries, and particularly among the 49 least developed countries, which in 2001 accounted for less than 1% of international tourist arrivals and less than 0.5% of international tourism receipts. This acute imbalance is accentuated by the dependence of many tourist destinations on external travel distribution networks and by the anti-competitive behaviour of some global tourism operators.
Since UNCTAD X four years ago, UNCTAD has been involved in several initiatives aimed at making tourism more sustainable. "Sustainable" tourism is tourism that has a positive economic and social impact on the host country and that is also environmentally friendly. UNCTAD´s activities in this area cover tourism investment policies, tourism in the framework of national trade policy and multilateral negotiations, competition policy and tourism development, capacity development through training in the field of tourism and information and communications technologies in tourism development. These activities have been conducted in partnership with the World Tourism Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO.
Other UNCTAD activities in the field of sustainable tourism to be discussed in Lisbon include a training course and "e-tourism" initiative. The new TRAINFORTRADE course teaches governmental tourism officials and managers in developing countries how to better exploit their national tourism potential. The e-tourism initiative is aimed at enhancing developing countries´ capacities to promote their tourism product and match it to worldwide demand through an electronic platform, which also offers such value-added online services as reservation systems.
The e-tourism initiative will be launched at UNCTAD XI, to be held in São Paulo, Brazil, 13-18 June. The conference will also include a round table on export and investment strategies to support tourism development.