Forum Summary

Washington Declaration

Tourism's Potential as a Sustainable Development Strategy
October 19-20, 2004,

The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Forum Summary

The WTO Tourism Policy Forum marked the first time that donor agencies, developing countries, and civil society have met together at a high-level international conference to focus specifically on ways to cooperate and harness the economic power of tourism for sustainable development.

Organized by WTO and The George Washington University--chair of the WTO Education Council--the forum attracted 200 participants and more than 200 observers from 52 countries, including 20 tourism ministers or top-level government officials.   Participating donor agencies included multilateral banks such as the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, as well as bilateral development agencies such as USAID, DGSC/MAE Italy, AECI Spain, DGCID/MAE France, SNV Netherlands, GZT Germany, CIDA Canada, and JICA Japan.

The forum opened on October 19 with keynote speeches by WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli, Inter-American Development Bank President Enrique Iglesias, and World Bank Vice-President James Adams.  All three speakers stressed that properly managed tourism can be a powerful tool for sustainable development.  But they also agreed that the complex, multifaceted nature of the tourism industry presents special management challenges for donor agencies as well as governments. Some challenges identified were ensuring cooperation and communication among the diverse tourism development stakeholders and developing analytical measurement tools to evaluate the success or failure of sustainable tourism development projects.

Mr. Iglesias also described the importance of tourism in the Latin American region, where 54 million international visits per year translate into 2.5 million jobs, or roughly 15% of the region's workforce.  Mr. Iglesias also mentioned that although IDB has been involved in tourism projects for 30 years, the focus has changed from big infrastructure projects to more community-based projects.  Mr. Adams reported that in the past five years, the World Bank Group has undertaken approximately 100 projects involving tourism in 56 countries, representing 3% of the bank's total investment.  He also stressed how tourism development is not only about economic growth but also about conservation and social sustainability.   Finally, Mr. Frangialli reviewed WTO activities in the area of sustainable tourism development, asserting WTO's intention to lead a global partnership for sustainable tourism development to help the developing world harness its tremendous tourism potential. 

An additional keynote speech was later delivered by USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios, who stressed the need for community involvement to ensure tourism is sustainable. He also underscored the importance of capacity building, which he said represented the essence of development. 

This was followed by a tourism minister panel discussion, moderated by Mr. Frangialli.  Participants included the tourism ministers from Lesotho, Nicaragua, South Africa, Honduras, Andorra, and Jordan.   Some messages that were echoed by all participants were that tourism is the most efficient sector for generating jobs and economic growth, master plans need to stress long-term sustainability and poverty reduction, and that legal and regulatory frameworks for investors are needed. 

The afternoon session on October 19 included several important announcements.  First, a Memorandum of Understanding was announced and signed between WTO and The George Washington University for a new project called DANTEI (Development Assistance Network for Tourism Economic Initiatives). DANTEI is a website designed to increase communication and the exchange of information about sustainable tourism projects.  

In the afternoon session, Eduardo Fayos-SolŠ, Head of WTO Human Resource Development, discussed the value of knowledge management as a key instrument for tourism policy and outlined the framework of a WTO approach to Tourism Policy for Development consisting of (i) building public/private partnerships for action; (ii) using knowledge management as the main instrument in tourism for development policies and (iii) creating strategic tourism policy plans with development as the main objective. Some specific initiatives such as a sustainability indicators study, an e-learning programme, and a WTO Education Council volunteer programme were then discussed during the WTO Knowledge Management panel that concluded the activities of October 19.

Following this, Geoffrey Lipman, WTO Special Advisor, announced the creation of the new ST-EP (Sustainable Tourism - Eliminating Poverty) Foundation, which is set to begin operations next year.  ST-EP will finance new research and development projects that link sustainable tourism to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially poverty alleviation.  The foundation, to be based in Seoul, aims to attract US$100 million in financing and sponsor 5,000 projects by 2015. 

Young-Shim Dho of the Korean Culture and Tourism Policy Institute, which is providing US$5 million in seed money for the ST-EP Foundation, was one six panelists in a donor session held later in the afternoon of October 19.  She was joined on the panel by Richard Scobey of the World Bank, Paul McGinnis of Canadian International Development Agency, Martin Tampe of German Technical Cooperation GZT, and Don Martin of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.  The session was moderated by Antonio Vives of the Inter-American Development Bank.

The focus of October 20 was on working group sessions organized according to eight tourism development themes.  The themes of the four morning concurrent sessions were Strategic Assessment Planning and Implementation; Decentralized Governance and Community Capacity Building; SME Business Development and Competitiveness; Natural Resource and Protected Area Management.  The themes of the four afternoon sessions were Cultural Heritage Preservation; Marketing Sustainable Tourism Product; Rural Development; and Financial Instruments and Enabling Environments.

In each session, five or six tourism experts presented case studies.  Next, session attendees divided into three groups, each discussing an issue that was identified through a pre-conference survey.   More specifically, each group identified three important recommendations related to their issue and then determined how and by which organizations these recommendations should be carried out. 

After the afternoon working group sessions, a panel of tourism experts from USAID, DGSC/MAE Italy, AECI Spain, DGCID/MAE France, SNV Netherlands, and GZT Germany discussed their organizations' tourism activities and avenues for future collaboration. 

The forum concluded with a reading of the Washington Declaration on Tourism as a Sustainable Development Strategy by University of Hawaii Professor Pauline Sheldon and concluding statements by WTO Special Advisor Geoffrey Lipman. Lipman pointed out the emergence of a new mindset among top officials of the international financing institutions, who had asserted that tourism can be the "entry point" to development in areas like infrastructure and rural renewal. He also called upon all participants to collaborate in order to leverage their strengths, offering the WTO as reference point for the sector and focal point for linkages with the Millennium Development Goals.  

Forum Summary

Washington Declaration

Washington Declaration on
Tourism as a Sustainable Development Strategy
October 20, 2004

The first international forum focusing on tourism development and assistance met for the Tourism Policy Forum held in Washington DC from October 18-20, 2004, convened by the World Tourism Organization and The George Washington University, Chair of the WTO Education Council. 

The assembly proposes the following declaration: 

Whereas, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) has recently become the United Nations Specialized Agency for Tourism, vested with a central role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism;

Whereas, the purpose of the WTO Tourism Policy Forum (WTO.TPF) is to convene educators and knowledge management experts of the WTO Education Council and other informed professionals, together with representative government policy-makers and business leaders, to focus on critical policy issues facing global tourism and to offer recommendations for future directions;

Whereas, 200 delegates and 200 observers from 52 countries participated in global consensus building activities focused on development assistance issues and strategic recommendations;

Taking into consideration that tourism is the largest industry in the world today with significant economic, environmental and socio-cultural impacts, requiring sustainable, knowledge-based policies;

Taking into consideration that tourism is an increasingly important development strategy to positively address poverty reduction, economic growth, biodiversity conservation, and socio-cultural integrity generally, as well as the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) specifically;  

Recognizing that tourism can contribute to equitable redistribution of income and liberalization with a human face; 

Recognizing also the active role of other United Nations agencies and their assistance to developing countries. 

Acknowledging that sustainable tourism development necessitates private and public sector, donor agency and stakeholder cooperation and input; 

Acknowledging that the measurement and monitoring of tourismís impact with rigorous analytical tools and relevant indicators is crucial; 

Acknowledging the importance of the WTO ST-EP program to bring sustainable tourism development into the service of poverty alleviation.

We agree to the following: 

To build partnerships of equal opportunity and fair representation within destinations, and to strengthen their leadership; 

To engender local community awareness of the tourism planning process and its benefits; 

To foster buy-in for the concept of sustainability by all sectors including the sharing of guidelines and good practices; 

To delegate the authority for decision-making to the appropriate community level and build capacity there, and empower local development authorities; 

To encourage and facilitate brand awareness and a collective image for a destination community; 

To recognize the uniqueness of the business perspective as different from that of the public sector and to communicate effectively in business language; 

To develop cross-sectoral demonstration projects that illustrate linkages, inter-relationships and working partnerships; 

To call upon governments, bi-lateral and multi-lateral institutions to facilitate access to capital of all kinds, and to provide guidance, training and support on how to access such funding; 

To develop land-use policies through a participatory process, and to provide policy incentives for private land owners; 

To enhance communication and coordination between agencies including the use of advanced information communication technologies;

To develop educational programs directed to tourism policy stakeholders including local communities to promote the understanding of cultural/heritage resources, and the need for preservation and social responsibilities; 

To encourage the development of a regional network of researchers, practitioners and donor agencies for sustainable tourism development.

Therefore, be it resolved that:

  1. These Forum findings and recommendations will be reported to the relevant
    bodies and WTO organs for consideration of further action.

  2. The Forum delegates call upon aid donors and recipients, to join together with government, private sector, universities and civil society stakeholders to form a global network to enhance tourismís potential to contribute positively to the fulfillment of Millennium Development Goals.

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