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Tour Operators Initiative Moves Secretariat to Madrid

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MADRID, SPAIN— Tour Operators Initiative (TOI), the international network that encourages operators to commit themselves to supporting the sustainable development of tourism, has transferred its Secretariat to the headquarters of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Madrid, Spain.

“This move opens up new and exciting possibilities for our work,” says TOI chairman Tom Selanniemi. “The UNWTO network will help open doors, especially to decision makers in tourism destinations, which will greatly support the integration of the concept of sustainability into tourism development.”

Formerly based at the United Nations Environment Programme in Paris, TOI was founded by a group of 15 major tour operators in 1999 with the backing of UNWTO, UNEP and UNESCO. Since then it has grown to 20 companies from 11 countries and enlarged its support base to include Conservation International and the WWF.

UNEP and UNESCO, full members of the Initiative, keep on actively supporting the TOI by providing the Initiative with guidance and technical advice. TOI’s aims are to: help destinations to benefit socially, economically and culturally from tourism development; ensure that the economic benefits are equitably shared by all stakeholders; encourage and catalyze initiatives and efforts to achieve sustainable tourism development across all sectors of the tourism industry; and promote changes in the behavior of consumers from tourist generating countries that are conducive to sustainability.

A voluntary, nonprofit organization, open to tour operators throughout the world, regardless of their size and geographical location, TOI carries out work in five key areas:

1. Research and information, to explore and share ideas and practices on environmental, socio-economic and cultural topics;

2. Capacity building, to assist TOI members and other tour operators in putting into practice sustainable development and management principles through publications, workshops, conferences and training;

3. Technical support for members in their commitment to the sustainable development of tourism;

4. Communication, to increase awareness of priority issues and raise the visibility of the Initiative among key players in the tourism sector; and

5. Outreach, to open direct dialogues with other tour operators and tourism stakeholders.

Welcoming TOI to Madrid, UNWTO’s head of sustainable development, Eugenio Yunis, said: “In their designing of holiday packages, and with their direct influence on the tourism supply chain, tour operators have a unique opportunity to exercise great influence on the level and type of tourism development that is carried out around the world. As the United Nations General Assembly has clearly stressed, tourism has an important role to play in eradicating poverty, advancing economic and social development, contributing to the conservation of natural and cultural environments and improving the quality of life for all peoples, as well as in promoting international peace and understanding.”

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