Travel Editor on Global Sustainable Tourism Forum

Jennifer Vernon
for National Geographic News
December 5, 2003

Last week, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced the launch of a multi-year World Tourism Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development. The initiative partners world governments, private sector sponsors, and non-profit organizations—including the National Geographic Society—that work to promote good tourism practices.

National Geographic News recently spoke with Jonathan Tourtellot, National Geographic Traveler magazine's geotourism editor and the Society's director of sustainable tourism, about the effort.

The forum plans to focus on five general categories or issues within tourism. How will this be organized?

The word they're using is "streams." The idea as it currently stands is that each stream will be lead by one particular country. Brazil, as the initiator, has selected for itself the cultures stream, because Brazil has a great variety of cultures which are not necessarily widely appreciated or understood in the rest of the world. The plan is for other countries to step forward and volunteer to lead one of the other streams. And as time goes on, I can see the possibility of additional streams being added.

Which streams have been chosen thus far?

Environment and biodiversity, conditions for peace, social development, cultural diversity—that's the one that Brazil will lead—and economic development.

One of the president of Brazil's comments to the forum was his belief that tourism could be a powerful anti-poverty tool and could promote peace through the use of wise practices.

I agree.

So do you think these are inter-linked issues?

They're quite inter-linked. You cannot have successful tourism, or certainly successful sustainable tourism, when you have acute poverty. And as we know, you certainly can't have tourism when you have war.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's letter from the United Nations to the forum referenced previous groups that had met to discuss tourism and development. How will the forum's approach be unique?

If it works as we all hope it will, it's going to be bigger, more inclusive, and really a permanent entity. The word "forum" can be understood in two ways. One is, you just picture a big meeting, and indeed there will be some big meetings. The plan is already to have three summits over the next three years. But like the Roman Forum, it's also a permanent entity; it can be a permanent place to exchange ideas. And that's where I hope the National Geographic can play a role.

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