The need to strengthen the tourism sector’s ability to address climate change took centre stage during the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) International Conference on Tourism and Climate Change that took place last week in Legazpi, the Philippines.

The conference brought together more than 200 senior tourism officials, policymakers and industry experts from 18 countries to exchange views and best practices on how to strengthen the sector’s ability to address this global challenge.

According to the ASEAN Secretariat's press release, Asia-Pacific has been at the forefront of tourism growth and development over the last decade, and recent numbers confirm that tourism in the region continues to progress above average. With rising international tourist arrivals and receipts in 2013 (6 percent and 8 percent respectively), the region’s tourism leadership is increasingly consolidated. Yet, continued tourism growth and sustainable development depend on improving the tourism sector’s resilience to climate change.

UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, made a call to position the fight against climate change at the heart of the tourism agenda, underscoring both the need for greater responsibility from the sector and the benefits sustainability entails for tourism and beyond.

“Energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies can reduce operational costs. Resource efficiency not only mitigates and reduces the tourism footprint, but fosters economic growth and creates much needed jobs in the process,” he said.

Meanwhile, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), said that the conference helped with advancing the dialogue on how to address the greatest challenge of climate change, and in particular, how to address climate change in tourism and in policy that promotes tourism as an economic engine.

The conference highlighted that climate change mitigation policies should be consistent with the overall challenge it represents, thus requiring a multi-stakeholder approach and taking into account specific technological, economic and social changes.

Participants stressed that tourism's highly dynamic and innovative nature puts it at the forefront of those sectors dealing with climate change adaptation, and therefore providing opportunities to reduce the vulnerabilities it induces. However, in order to succeed, this endeavour needs to be shared by both tourism providers and consumers through increased awareness on the individual contribution to climate change response.-VNA