UNWTO and the Tour Operators’ Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development (TOI) have renewed their commitment to work together in promoting sustainable tourism practices during the last meeting of TOI held in Madrid at the Headquarters of UNWTO, which hosts the TOI Secretariat (2 December 2011).
Founded in 2000, the TOI is a voluntary, non-profit organization for tour operators and travel companies from around the world, regardless of their size and geographical location, which together represent more than 50 million travellers.
With this Initiative, tour operators are moving towards sustainable tourism by committing themselves to the concepts of sustainable development as the core of their business activity and to working together through common activities to promote and disseminate methods and practices compatible with sustainable development.
On the occasion, TOI member companies elected a new Board of Directors chaired by Michel Lemay, Vice-President, Communications and Corporate Affairs and Chief Brand Officer of Transat A.T. Inc.. Other Board members include Vice-Chair Andreas Müseler (REWE Touristik), Matthias Leisinger (Kuoni), Antero Kaleva (Aurinkomatkat) and Othman Cherif Alami (Atlas Voyages).
“The TOI provides a strong voice to travel companies that believe in the role of tourism as a driver of economic growth, poverty alleviation and environment and heritage protection,” said Mr. Lemay. “With the support of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), TOI member companies work together at promoting the best practices in sustainability and corporate responsibility.”
UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, reiterated the relevance of TOI in practically advancing key sustainable development objectives that UNWTO is promoting. “Tourism is a growing sector, despite the difficult international economic scenario, and this is the right time to promote and catalyze efforts to achieve sustainable tourism development across the different players of the industry while fully engaging the private sector in a mutually reinforcing relation to advance the international development agenda”, he said.
TOI has been successfully developing and implementing activities and projects with the key involvement of local stakeholders to help destinations remain tourism attractions and ensure that the socio-economic benefits generated by tourism are equally shared by host communities – for instance in Turkey, Mexico and Morocco.
The Initiative has also contributed to research on key issues ranging from integrating sustainability into the tour operators’ supply chain and the role of the tourism sector in a multi-cultural world, to the relation among tourism development, biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction strategies, and the integration of climate protection measures into corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies.