Tourism is one of the world's fastest growing industries and an important source of foreign exchange and employment for many developing countries. In reviewing the first five years' implementation of Agenda 21 in 1997 at its nineteenth Special Session, the General Assembly indicated the need to give further consideration to the importance of tourism in the context of Agenda 21. In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg addressed sustainable tourism in Chapter IV, paragraph 43 of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
Tourism that focuses on natural environments is a large and growing part of the tourism industry. While it can contribute in a positive manner to socio-economic development and environmental protection, uncontrolled tourism growth can also cause environmental degradation, destruction of fragile ecosystems, and social and cultural conflict, undermining the basis of tourism.
The General Assembly in 1998 proclaimed 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism (A/RES/53/200), reaffirming Economic and Social Council resolution 1998/40, of 30 July 1998. For further information on activities related to Ecotourism, please consult the web-site of the World Tourism Organization.
As announced at the Johannesburg Summit, the World Tourism Organization, in collaboration with UNCTAD, launched the Sustainable Tourism-Eliminating Poverty
(ST-EP) initiative to develop sustainable tourism as a force for poverty alleviation.
The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) last reviewed the issue of sustainable tourism in 2001, when it was acting as the Preparatory Committee for the Johannesburg Summit. In its current work programme, the CSD will next take up the issue of sustainable development in its fifth cycle, in 2012 and 2013.