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What is World Tourism Day?

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(Last updated on: 04/04/2020)

So, what is World Tourism Day? Celebrated every year on September 27th, World Tourism Day serves to make people around the world aware of the value and importance of tourism. Read on to find out how!

World Tourism Day

A brief history of World Tourism Day

World Tourism Day has been celebrated since September 27th 1980. The specific date was chosen because the Statutes of the UNWTO were adopted on that day a decade earlier. This was considered a milestone in global tourism!

UNWTO is the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation, responsible for promoting ‘sustainable and universally accessible tourism’. There are 158 countries who are members of UNWTO. 500 affiliate members represent the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities. 

As part of their work, UNWTO encourage their member countries to implement the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism. The aim of this is to maximise the socio-economic contributions of tourism while simultaneously minimising any negative impacts. You can find out more about this, and about the World Tourism Organisation themselves, here

World Tourism Day: what actually happens?

Each year, a different country plays host. They are chosen by UNWTO. Countries such as Costa Rica, Malaysia, Peru, Egypt, Germany, Mexico and more have been host countries for World Tourism Day throughout the years.

As well as being in a different country every year, World Tourism Day has a different theme each year too. Themes have included ‘preserving world heritage for the new Millennium’, ‘sport and tourism: two living forces for mutual understanding, culture and the development of societies’, and ‘technology and nature: two challenges for tourism at the dawn on the 21st century’.

This video from the South African tourist board talks about the importance of World Tourism Day.

Although the main event itself is hosted in a particular country each year, events take place in all member countries celebrating the occasion. These events range from conventions and symposiums, to tours, workshops and sightseeing walks.

The physicality of World Tourism Day

Each year, there is a physical venue for World Tourism Day. This is, of course, within the host country of that year’s celebrations. It might be an entire resort, a city centre convention hall or simply a hotel.

This venue is used for the event itself. There are welcome addresses, where important people within the tourism industry both in that country and globally will send out messages. You can read more about those below! Following on from this there will be a variety of speeches and activities regarding the theme of that year. Whether it’s an expert giving their point of view, a think tank or a Q&A, the day is both educational and interactive for those in attendance.

There are also cultural performances. Depending on which country is hosting, there will be music, dancing, martial arts, poetry or something entirely different. As well as this, there are lunches and dinners with food native to the host country.

World Tourism Day: the messages

The secretary general of the UNWTO at the time sends out a message on World Tourism Day each year. This message discusses the theme of that year, and how it currently relates to global tourism. It also talks about what the UNWTO hopes to do to advance tourism in terms of the theme; whether that be by organising for case studies to be created, conventions to be organised, rules to be put in places or something else.

The UN themselves send out their own message, too, courtesy of their secretary general. This message also focuses on the global impact of that year’s theme, and how world governments can do better make travel and tourism more beneficial to all.

Finally, the host country also sends out a message on World Tourism Day. This generally comes from the CEO of that county’s tourism agency, or another high-flyer within the company. They tend to talk about how tourism has impacted their country specifically, and how the theme of that year relates to their country too.

What else happens on World Tourism Day?

There is a photo competition that takes place each year in conjunction with the event. The theme of the competition is, of course, the same as the theme of that year’s event. Photographers from around the world submit images on this theme, and they are voted on by the public through a voting system. 

World Tourism Day is also widely celebrated on social media in recent years. The growth of social media as a tool for tourist boards, hotels, travel agencies and other tourism-related organisations has been massive in recent years. By using a hashtag, such as #WTD2018 (and so on, with the year changing every time), everyone can participate in the event without having to physically attend. There are only so many spaces at the event; smaller companies often can’t spare the time or money to attend something like this. The hashtag groups everyone’s World Tourism Day celebration posts together and helps cities, countries and continents connect with each other.

So there you have it – that’s what happens on World Tourism Day. Remember if takes place on the 27th September every single year so if you work in the travel industry, check out the location of the upcoming event and get yourself registered!

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