World Tourism Day 2013 - it's about water

Travel is such an enriching experience but it can take its toll on all our natural resources

It's almost mid semester break across TAFE NSW campuses. Are you planning to travel to recharge the batteries and refocus your energy before getting back into it?

While we're away, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is asking all of us with a passion for travel to celebrate World Tourism Day. Every year on 27 September, the UNWTO promotes the celebration of all that is travel and tourism right around the world. This is to draw attention on tourism as a globally important economic, social and environmental activity.

We're all encouraged to get involved in the competitions and plan an event of our own. At Sydney TAFE we're proudly celebrating 40 years of training in travel and tourism and students are putting together a display to mark the event. They're spreading the word via Facebook.

You may not realise how big a business travel and tourism is. According to the UNWTO, in 2012, a record one billion travellers crossed international borders. That's one in every seven people on the planet. And that doesn't even include those who travel within their own country – so that's a lot of people moving about for travel!

Australians are the 10th largest international source market for travel in the world. We spend more than $30 billion when we're overseas. Domestically we also make about 70 million overnight trips or three trips for every person in the country. We certainly love to travel!

But it's not just about what we do. In 2012, almost 6 million people travelled from their overseas homes to our shores. We want to keep sustainably increasing this number so more jobs are created and our economy as a whole grows.

Travel is such an enriching experience but it can take its toll on all our natural resources. Principally among these is water, a precious resource the world over. Just three per cent of the earth's water is fresh and to focus attention on water usage, the theme of this year's World Tourism Day is ‘Tourism and Water, Protecting our Common Future'.

So this World Tourism Day the UNWTO asks us to think about conservation of this valuable resource. Their advice is simple and easy for all of us to implement. We can all try taking a shower instead of a bath. Or choose not to have our hotel bed linen and towels changed and washed every day. These simple steps can make a huge difference by helping avoid unnecessary water and chemical usage. Do some pre-travel research to see if your destination is experiencing water shortages. That nice hot bath you soak yourself in could mean lack of water for the local community. Try to choose services that minimise the use of water.

If you like the beach, show some respect to the sites you visit. Don't leave rubbish behind or collect natural shells from the environment. Don't damage sensitive ecosystems and use paths if they are provided. Use water-resistant sun block to avoid polluting the sea and damaging marine wildlife.

The UNWTO has produced a global code of ethics for tourism. We should all read this before we travel to help us act responsibly.

On this World Tourism Day take some time to reflect on your responsibilities as a traveller. In particular, the impact you can have on precious water resources in the places you are visiting as well as when you are at home.