Tourism commits to water action agenda at 2023 UN Water Conference

At the 2023 United Nations Water Conference, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) provided substantial input, underlining the role of tourism in safeguarding water resources and contributing to the acceleration of Sustainable Development Goal 6, to “Ensure access to water and sanitation for all”, and to the broader 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Emphasizing the industry-wide determination to do more, UNWTO joined tourism stakeholders in committing to the Water Action Agenda, a major outcome document of the 2023 UN Water Conference and the compilation of all voluntary commitments related to water.

In New York, the Government of Austria joined UNWTO to organize a special high-level side event on “Tourism and Water: Challenges and Opportunities”. Bringing together partners from the recently launched Alliance for a Positive Nature Approach to Tourism, UNWTO, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA), the event outlined the tourism the sector’s significant water footprint and its reliance on clean, reliable oceans and water supplies. “Tourism and Water: Challenges and Opportunities” highlighted the impact of the sector on water, including the negative impacts of consumption and waste, as well as pollution, while underlining the progress made in advancing action plans to ensure sustainable water management at all levels of tourism value. chain.

Participants were provided with an overview of the initiatives undertaken by UNWTO and partners under the umbrella of the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Program, in particular the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, the Global Initiative on Plastics in Tourism and the Global Roadmap for Reducing Food Waste in Tourism. Tourism, emphasizing the interconnectedness of the challenges of climate change, pollution and water scarcity and the need for timely and regular monitoring efforts.

Towards harmonized sustainability data

A global effort towards a Statistical Framework for Measuring Tourism Sustainability is underway to fill the gap of harmonized data at international, national and sub-national levels, with Austria chairing the UNWTO Expert Group leading this process. UNWTO Executive Director, Ms. Zoritsa Urosevic, said: “Water permeates all tourism activity. As the world faces increasingly complex challenges, we must not lose sight of the fact that we still have common goals. We need harmonized data to ensure that tourism action on the ground truly responds to our shared vision.” In this context, the International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO) was introduced as a leader in assessing the progress made at the destination level, as well as the challenges that still need to be overcome, including obtaining better data.

Mr. Norbert Totschnig, Austrian Federal Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management stressed that “tourism can not only bring prosperity, but can also be a driver for improving water quality and availability in regions. Efforts are required to manage water efficiently, to keep our rivers, lakes and the sea clean”. Also during the side event, the WTTC presented new data on global and national water consumption, while the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance presented its water stewardship initiatives, including the Hotel Water Metering Initiative and the Index of updated destination water risk.

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