World Migratory Bird Day 2014 – celebrated in over 70 countries on 10-11 May – focuses on the role sustainable tourism can play in conserving one of the world’s true natural wonders: the spectacular movements of migratory birds along their flyways.
Thanks to an innovative new project being led by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and promoted through this year’s World Migratory Bird Day, some of the world’s estimated 50 billion migratory birds should soon be able to benefit from sustainable tourism development.
This year’s commemoration will be held under the theme “Destination Flyways – Migratory Birds and Tourism”. Destination Flyways is also the name of the UNWTO-led project, currently in its preliminary phase, which aims to develop sustainable tourism at destinations along the world’s major migratory bird routes.
Focusing on a selection of eight key sites for migratory birds in Africa, Asia and Europe, the project aims to be a vehicle for both environmental and socio-economic sustainability, benefiting wildlife, local communities and tourists alike.
By providing an adequate framework for sustainable tourism management, diversifying tourism and channelling its revenue back into the conservation of the project sites and the communities around them, Destination Flyways will work to safeguard the birds’ habitats, while creating job opportunities for local communities along the flyways.
With over one billion international tourists travelling the world every year, generating a global trade income of USD 1.4 trillion and 9 per cent of global GDP, tourism clearly has an immense potential to contribute to sustainable development.
“Tourism is an undisputed generator of national wealth, corporate income and local employment. Managed sustainably, it can benefit people and the planet alike,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message to the 20th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly.
The annual World Migratory Bird Day campaign is organized by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) – two intergovernmental wildlife treaties administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). For this year’s campaign, CMS and AEWA are partnering with UNWTO and others to highlight the mutually beneficial relationship between tourism and conservation.
“As tourism continues to grow, so too will the pressures on the environment and wildlife. Without proper management and protection, as well as investments in greening the sector, thousands of magnificent species will suffer,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “Tourism has been identified by UNEP as one of the ten economic sectors best able to contribute to the transition to a sustainable and inclusive green economy. This important initiative will help to accelerate the transition to the green economy while protecting tourism – a major source of revenue for many communities – and the thousands of species it spotlights,” he added.
Events to mark World Migratory Bird Day 2014 will include bird festivals, education programmes, bird watching trips, presentations, film screenings, the launch of an international photo competition and a benefit concert to raise funds for international nature conservation.