Empowering Youth as a Key to a More Sustainable Tourism
Sorrento, Italy, July 8, 2022 / TRAVELINDEX / The first Global Youth Tourism Summit concluded with a simulation of the UNWTO General Assembly where 120 participants from 57 countries and aged between 12 and 18 took part, and where voting on a “Sorrento Call to Action” took place.
This bold and ground-breaking vision for young people to be active participants in tourism’s restart and growth, as a pillar of sustainable and inclusive development was adopted with a majority of favourable opinions by the students taking part.
The document was drawn up based on the discussions of a series of workshops held at the Summit during the course of a week, where the young participants learned and shared their thoughts on some of the key issues facing tourism right now, among them innovation and digitalization, plastic pollution and the growing relevance of sport, culture and gastronomy for destinations.
For a lot of them this was the first time they travelled outside of their country, first time they travelled by plane eve, like for Saltanat Pazylbekova, 15 years old from Kyrgyzstan “This is my first time abroad, I travelled for 12 hours to get to Sorrento and it was worth every minute. I made friends from all over the world, what a great experience. I rarely get to speak English when back home so to come here and be able to share our views with like minded individuals and learn so much about themes that are so important to me is an experience I will never forget.”
Most of the workshops were interactive and one of the sessions that had greater impact on the young attendants was the plastic reduction workshop led by the sister duo Amy and Ella Meek, founders of Kids Against Plastic from the UK. “One of the most amazing realisations I had was at the end of the plastic reduction workshop. Plastic does not dissolve completely, it just breaks into small pieces, particles, and it stays in our ecosystem. Forever. This makes me feel frightened of what we are becoming, of what we are evolving into. I do have hope that we will find a solution, we have to!” said Dinara Zamantayeva, 15years old who travelled in from Kazakhstan.
A lot of the attendants took part in local competitions to be selected to come and represent their country. “I am so proud of myself for being chosen to come to the Summit. I learned so much during this week, I was particularly inspired by Salam Hamzeh Ghaith the CEO of Smallword Foundation and all the work she does with children.” said Nhelma Jacques, 16 years old from the Seychelles.
No matter how young these teenagers were, their sense of responsibility to make the world a better place was a common thread amongst all “I travelled from Austria on a night train, I worry about the impact of travelling on the planet and my carbon footprint. I think about my impact all the time, it is so hard to change the way we live. It would be much easier to just continue to live the way we do but that’s not an option. The climate change workshop we did is the one that marked me the most, I loved how it was all explained in a simple manner, by people of our generation. It made it so much more relatable – everyone understood the message. It’s in our own hands to change the future.” stated Elana Bertalan, 15 years old from Austria.
The “Sorrento Call to Action” goes beyond recognizing that the voice of youth must be consulted in policymaking and instead states that young people now need to active participants in every stage of the decision-making process across the whole of the tourism sector.
The General Assembly simulation opened with high-level interventions both in person and via video messages from His Holiness Pope Francis, Italian Minister for Tourism Massimo Garavaglia, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio, Italian Minister for Youth Policies Fabiana Dadone, and the UN Envoy for Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake.
Zurab Pololikashvili, mentioned that “The Global Youth Tourism Summit is a hugely
important first, for UNWTO and for our sector, and that young talent from every region
will be supported to give them a stage to voice their ideas about tourism’s future.”
Massimo Garavaglia emphasized Italy as being the proud hosts of this first ever event
and encouraged the young people present to become the responsible travelers of
tomorrow and to keep their optimism for making their dreams a reality.
Jayathma Wickramanayake highlighted the importance of promoting the active
engagement of young people as agents of transformational change, challenging the
status quo, and realizing the Agenda 2030.
People, planet and prosperity
Three pillars are enshrined in the Sorrento Call to Action: People, Planet, and Prosperity.
For people, for example, the young signatories call for the safeguarding of human rights,
especially of persons with disabilities through adequate tourism strategies and policies.
For the planet, the issues of food waste, plastic pollution, climate change mitigation,
and biodiversity preservation are flagged up. Finally, for prosperity, poverty reduction,
upgrading digital skills, and creating more employment opportunities are voiced by the
The Call to Action states that “decision-makers must empower the youth, providing them
with opportunities to voice their concerns” while also working to it “stimulate education
to ensure responsible travelers and professionals.” At the same time, it recognizes the
historic significance of the first Global Youth Tourism Summit and calls on UNWTO to
hold annual summits and to work with its Member States on national events.
Mafalda Borea is the Editor-at-Large of TravelIndex Group media and Founder & Chair of SustainableFirst.com Linkedin