Tourism must play a central role in raising awareness on sustainability and promoting sustainable development on small islands, global delegates have agreed.
The Sustainable Development of Tourism in Islands conference, organised by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the French government and held in St Denis, La Reunion, brought together individuals and businesses to discuss the role of tourism in the economy of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
For some small islands, tourism plays a vital role, being the major – if not the only – economic activity able to support a large number of families and communities.
At the same time, sustainable tourism plays a crucial role in raising awareness on environmental and conservation issues, as well as sponsoring the cultural heritage and traditional practices of the local population.
The over 150 participants also stressed the importance of cooperation between small islands to effectively promote tourism, bringing as an example the Vanilla Islands initiative, which links seven Indian Ocean island territories: Comoros, La Reunion, Madagascar, Maldives, Mayotte, Mauritius and Seychelles.
However, they also said that in order for tourism to be successful, air connections and working travel links were essential, as often these islands are located in very remote and inaccessible areas.
In a UN resolution held in January, sustainable and ecotourism was said to be crucial to promote environmental protection and create jobs, education, while fighting poverty at the same time.