5 healthy tourism actions in honor of World Tourism Day

September 27, 2018 marked the celebration of World Tourism Day, an annual opportunity for the global tourism industry to engage in discourse and learning in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. This year’s theme of “Digital Transformation” focused the discussion on how the industry can use technology as a force for inclusion, empowerment and entrepreneurship.

As part of the company’s ongoing support of the goals set by the UNWTO, participation in the World Tourism Day conversation was anchored in the pillars of Airbnb’s unique brand of healthy tourism, which promotes tourism that is:

  • More inclusive of typically underrepresented communities
  • Responsive to the world’s environmental sustainability needs
  • Built to deliver authentic experiences that are locally-based, embedded into and therefore benefitting communities rather than mass-tourism operators
  • Considerate of not only local economies but also local cultures
  • Designed to diversify the economic benefits of tourism

Building inclusive tourism
Tourism that empowers women and other underrepresented communities can reduce inequality and improve access to opportunity. During the World Bank’s World Tourism Day panel on September 26, Airbnb’s Director of Strategic Partnerships in APAC, Thao Nguyen, shared that women have earned more than $20 billion as home hosts on Airbnb, demonstrating the company’s ability to democratize the economic benefits generated by tourism.

Through a partnership with Vital Voices and their #WEEmpower initiative, Airbnb also announced that the company will be supporting the future travel needs of a group of female entrepreneurs from Nigeria, Jordan, Israel, Peru and Serbia who are seeking to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Building sustainable tourism
As natural disasters and climate change increasingly impact communities around the world, our response to these crises needs to be more agile and considerate of the actual needs on the ground to help communities recover faster. This week in an MSNBC appearance with the Co-Founder of All Hands & Hearts, Airbnb Co-Founder Joe Gebbia announced a new commitment to ensure a more thoughtful approach to giving in the wake of a natural disaster. Through our commitment to the Resilience Response Pledge, we will continue to scale our disaster response efforts through our Open Homes program in a way that is both more proactive and more enduring.

Building diverse tourism
Spreading the economic benefits of tourism across a broader range of communities is a key tenet of Healthy Tourism. David Scowsill, former President & CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council and member of the Airbnb Tourism Advisory Board remarks:

“Tourism is not only one of the world’s largest industries but also among the fastest-growing, and it’s becoming an increasingly vital pillar of economies all over the world. The beauty of platforms like Airbnb is that they quickly and dramatically expand the scope of the industry, especially in communities and destinations that previously wouldn’t have been included. Every day, more and more people are signing up for platforms like Airbnb, connecting their homes or their experiences to the community, and becoming tourism entrepreneurs.”

In a recent interview with Recode, President Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank explores the potential in leveraging technology to help solve not only some of the world’s greatest humanitarian crises, but also deliver positive benefits within communities. As an example, he cites Airbnb’s work in developing healthy tourism in Africa:

“They’ve been able to set up shop in places like Soweto in South Africa, and so when neighborhoods then become placed destinations for tourism and the people from those destinations can tell their story and then make an income, it’s actually a very positive thing.”

Building authentic tourism
During the World Bank’s World Tourism Day event on Digital Platforms and the Future of Tourism, Airbnb’s Director of Strategic Partnerships in APAC, Thao Nguyen, shared details on Airbnb’s new partnership with the Sri Lanka Tourism Ministry focused on jointly building Experiences that support the government’s national tourism strategy. Sri Lankan officials aim to double tourism income by 2020, generate 200,000 new jobs, and increase women’s participation in the industry.

With the launch, Airbnb added over 40 bookable Experiences in partnership with Sri Lankan government to give travelers insider access to communities, places, and things to do that go beyond traditional tourist selections. These Experiences range from an afternoon at a contemporary artists’ collective, a behind-the-scenes look at Sri Lanka’s fair trade handloom center focused on empowering women artisans from less represented areas in the country and a tour of the city’s best street food with tuk tuk drivers that is helping those with traditional jobs enhance their business through technology.

Building local tourism
As a prelude to World Tourism Day, Airbnb convened the first-of-its-kind Africa Travel Summit, which focused on facilitating dialogue about how technology can facilitate inclusive travel. Rosette Rugamba, Founder of Songa Africa and member of Airbnb’s Tourism Advisory Board, spoke on a panel focused on how government can actively enable inclusion through technology. In a statement that demonstrates her continued commitment to ensuring healthy tourism practices at all levels, Rosette shares:

“A key step in advancing the tourism sector is simply communicating the importance of its economic potential. In places like Africa, we need to move discussions of tourism from the leisure pages to the business pages, and recognize the industry’s impact as a key driver of building local economies and alleviating poverty. Digital platforms like Airbnb can provide tangible examples of this impact. Through initiatives like the Africa Academy and the launch of Experiences in South Africa, Airbnb is demonstrating the real economic potential that the tourism industry can provide to local communities.”

On World Tourism Day, and everyday, Airbnb is committed to helping bring the economic benefits of tourism to communities that want to welcome more travelers in a locally sensitive, sustainable way.


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