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Opening of the World Ecotourism Summit - 19 May 2002, Quebec

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

- Welcome to the World's first Summit on Ecotourism, the milestone event of the International Year of Ecotourism. It is fitting that as we prepare for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, we take time to reflect on Ecotourism, and what it can mean for development.

- Sustainable tourism, is an important component of sustainable development-it can offer people the opportunity to escape from the poison of poverty, especially least developed countries, and small islands - where tourism may be one of the most feasible alternatives in the globalised economy.

- The International Year of Ecotourism is already proving to be an excellent experience. It is serving as a catalyst for concrete action to strengthen Ecotourism. Almost 5,000 professionals and practitioners have participated in official events. Publications have been launched, projects implemented, awards established, and capacity building programs have taken place. The concerns of local communities, and indigenous people, have reached a wider audience than ever before.

- NGOs as partners, have not only shown us the shortcomings and limitations of ecotourism, but they have also indicated the way ahead, to improve practices through concrete projects.

- Governments have used the Year to launch new policies, and entrepreneurs have used it to bring increase awareness among the general public, on the difference their travel choices make.

- We welcome the opportunity to highlight and promote sustainable tourism- of which Ecotourism can be part - I believe that UNEP, working with partners, can play a role in helping develop well-managed tourism - tourism which takes account of its environmental, economic and social impact.

- Tourism is a good business - 4.4% of the world's GDP flows directly from tourism - over 200 million people are employed in the tourism industry - together, we should strive to harness this potential for the benefit of people and the environment, all over the world . Ecotourism, is a set of principles that can, and should, be applied to all forms of tourism, and lessons learned can be shared with mainstream tourism.

- What's so special about Ecotourism?

- Why do people decide to take an "ECOTOURISM" holiday?

- Usually, they are trying to find, understand and enjoy a pristine environment - their intentions are laudable

- Ecotourism, at its best, is tourism which promotes natural areas, educates those visiting them, and benefits local people and the local economy

- This Year should be used to firmly entrench those values and to raise awareness of best practice - so that all can learn, and understand fully, what is meant by truly sustainable ECOTOURISM

- There is a great need to examine closely the practice of ECOTOURISM - to ensure that no

- dilution of the concept, or "greenwashing" takes place.

- At present, applying the label "ECO" does not automatically mean that all aspects of an operation are good, that they respect the environment and the people living there.

- To be valuable to the environment, to local people, to tourists, and to the tourist industry, the "Ecotourism" label has to guarantee that certain standards are met.

- All tourism has potential for harm, if badly managed - pollution - damage to wildlife and plants - disrespect for indigenous culture.

- Ecotourism has an enhanced ability for harm - It operates in a fragile ecosystem, where the risk of damage and destruction is very high-therefore special care must be taken to minimize the impact of visitors

- Ecotourism is a difficult balancing act to perform

- It has to balance the demands of the tourists, with care for the environment- the tourist, local people and tour operators have to play by the rules

- UNEP believes that well-managed ECOTOURISM can help fragile sites and their stewards, the local communities.

Ecotourism can help to:

- Protect the rapidly disappearing ecosystems that house most of the remaining biodiversity on Earth, and it is one of the few economic tools available to finance conservation of sensitive ecosystems;

- Ensure that local communities have a voice in sustainable development, that they share in revenue flow, and that they earn their livelihoods with minimal impact on the environment.

- We are optimistic that working with partners in the tourism industry many of our own initiatives can be strengthened-for the good of the environment

- UNEP is using the Year to develop concrete examples of ideal ecotourism. I am thinking in particular, of the International Coral Reef Network (ICRAN) and the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP)- both of these projects have great potential to benefit conservation and local communities, while offering valuable ecotourism experiences-I look forward to their future development.

- UNEP is a major partner in the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN), it focuses on the management of the world's coral reef ecosystems, and their relationship to the communities that depend upon them. The health and welfare of coral reefs can determine the livelihoods of many people, as well as underpinning a profitable tourism industry. ICRAN will work with local communities, NGOs, governments and the private sector to ensure the future of these valuable ecosystems, as well as the future of the communities and economies they sustain.

- The UNEP/UNESCO project linking conservation and tourism at six natural World Heritage Sites, implemented by RARE Center, should also be a positive experience.

- It could serve as a blueprint for matching the demands of tourists, with the needs of the local people, the landscape and the environment

(The project is supported by Aveda and the United Nations Foundation and managed by UNEP, UNESCI and RARE Centre for Tropical Conservation)

- Proper planning and management is needed, to avoid threatening the biological diversity upon which ecotourism depends.

- The Convention on Biological Diversity has developed international guidelines on sustainable tourism and ecotourism, the CBD Guidelines for Sustainable Tourism in Vulnerable Ecosystems. Along with WTO's Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, and with UNEP's Principles for the Implementation of Sustainable Tourism, these are the best global references for the Year.

Efforts should now be focused on:

a) Ratification of the guidelines at the international and national levels, Implementation of the guidelines, using the UNEP Principles as a reference, through practical projects with NGO, government and IGO partners.

- The world's mountains, home to many indigenous peoples and diverse cultures, draw tourists - but the people living there are among the poorest in the world

- In this year which is also the Year of the Mountains, let us strive to make tourism work for the benefit of these people- well-managed ecotourism could bring improvements to the living conditions of mountain dwellers - and help preserve the environment and cultural diversity

- What will the International Year of Ecotourism deliver?

- Agreement on guidelines, leading to policy tools, benchmarks, standards and accreditation systems.

- Increased support for projects implementing the recommendations of this Summit.

- Continued sharing of best practice in multi-stakeholder fora

- It is my hope, that the Year of Ecotourism will be an educational experience - tools and

institutional frameworks can be consolidated, to ensure the sustainable development of Ecotourism -lessons can be learned for the future

- UNEP this year has contributed to three publications to help raise awareness:

- Ecotourism: Principles, Practices and policies for Sustainbility", with the International Ecotourism Society

- Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas ,with IUCN and WTO

- A UNEP magazine featuring 23 case studies from around the world.

- I look forward to building on this year of ecotourism, a year in which a year which lays down the foundation for "pure" ECOTOURISM - and the development of sustainable tourism wherever people visit

- Finally, I call upon you to help Mr. Frangialli and myself bring the results of this unique event to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, in Johannesburg in August/September 2002. The Summit should be a Summit of action for sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

- Sustainable tourism is certainly part of the solution to the complex problems we face today.

- Let us use our creativity: as Albert Einstein said, "the problems we have today cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them".