The goal of the Internet-based campaign is to raise tourists' awareness of their ability to contribute to sustainable development by making responsible holiday choices, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said at the fair Friday.
"Packing a Green Passport along with airline tickets, the swimming costume and the sun lotion means tourists no longer need to leave their green credentials at home but can make them part of the holiday of a lifetime,” he said.
Among many tips on the Green Passport website, the campaign encourages tourists to choose responsible service providers, reduce the consumption of energy in transit or in hotels, and buy locally made, environmentally-friendly souvenirs.
Worldwide travel is growing rapidly. (Photo courtesy FreeFoto.com)
Tourists can make holidays carbon neutral as possible, the Green Passport says, by reducing energy consumption, searching for sustainable mobility and accomodation options and offsetting the inevitable carbon cost of trips.
The French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Spatial Planning, and the Brazilian Ministries of Environment and Tourism co-sponsored the campaign launch.
The website, developed in English, Portuguese and French, together with additional communication tools, is available for dissemination among other partners in the tourism community.
The Green Passport campaign is a project of the International Task Force on Sustainable Tourism, a French initiative started in 2006.
Tourism, the world's biggest industry, has great potential for development, Steiner said, but it must be sustainable to keep damage to the planet at a minimum.
More sustainable choinces are becoming available. Rail company Virgin Trains launched Europe's first biodiesel blend train in June 2007 from London, UK, as part of a six month national trial.
And on February 24, using an unmodified Boeing 747, pilots for Virgin Atlantic successfully flew from London's Heathrow airport to Amsterdam using a biofuel made of a mix of coconut oil and babassu oil from the nuts of the Brazilian babassu tree.
Boeing, GE Aviation and Imperium Renewables, and Virgin Atlantic are helping to pioneer renewable fuel sources for aviation.
The World Tourism Organization estimates that there will be 1.5 billion tourists in the world in 2020, representing 21 percent of the world population, generating considerable strain for natural landscapes
Biodiversity, coastlines and mountain ranges in particular will come under considerable pressure. Heavier use of air transport, increased demand for water and energy - conflicting with the needs of local populations - and more pollution are just some of the tourism-generated problems that affect the global environment.
The number of international tourists continues to climb, with 898 million arrivals registered last year and further increases expected as traditionally poor countries emerge as more popular tourist destinations, according to the latest United Nations snapshot.
The UN World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, reported that last year's total represents a jump of 52 million people, about six percent over 2006 figures, with all major regions experiencing an above-average percentage increase.
Tourists visit the pyramids and sphinx on the Giza plateau near Cairo, Egypt. (Photo credit unknown)
The Middle East had the biggest percentage rise last year, with total international tourist numbers leaping 13 percent to 46 million, despite the ongoing threats and tensions across the region. Saudi Arabia and Egypt proved especially popular.
Asia and the Pacific received 185 million visitors, 10 percent improvement driven mainly by double-digit percentage increases in tourist numbers to Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, India and China.
Africa reported an eight percent rise to an estimated 44 million, led by the increasing allure of North Africa, particularly Morocco.
South Africa also is a growing destination ahead of its hosting of the World Cup soccer tournament in 2010. Marthinus van Schalkwyk, minister of environmental affairs and tourism, told the South African National Assembly Tuesday that arrivals for 2007 totalled just over nine million travellers - an 8.3 percent increase from 2006. The minister said South Africa is aiming for 10 million visitors in 2010.
By 2020, Steiner estimated, the number of international arrivals by air and by sea could reach 1.6 billion annually. As tourist numbers grow, so will their demand for energy, water, and natural resources to support their holidays.
"The challenge is to manage this growth sustainably,” Steiner said. "Governments have a key role to play, but so too do individuals and families when planning and going on holiday."
Find the Green Passport online at: http://www.unep.fr/greenpassport/
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