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Over the last fifty years, tourism has become one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the global economy. Thanks to more than 1,2 billion international travellers crossing international borders (UNWTO, 2016), tourism accounts for some 11% of the world’s GDP and 1 out 11 jobs. There is no doubt that the sector’s exponential growth has brought with it immense benefits. Tourism boosts not only the employment and foreign exchange, but it also drives the entrepreneurship, rural and urban development in many countries and regions, while reducing poverty, prompting intercultural dialogue and building tolerance.

Tourism also has an extraordinary potential to contribute to the socio-economic empowerment and advancement of women and youth, indigenous people, persons with disabilities and other segments of population who have not enjoyed historically the most privileged position in human development.

However, alongside seemingly boundless opportunities, the meteoric rise of the tourism sector has created challenges which must not be ignored. Without concerns for sustainability and responsible behavior by all stakeholders, tourism can develop in ways that can have detrimental impacts: damaging the environment, depleting natural resources and biodiversity, disrupting social structures and cultural values, ignoring the plight of disadvantaged groups, and even precipitating the exploitation of human beings.

It is only an ethical foundation that can harness tourism’s enormous capacity to do good, and impede any potential harm. Driven by these concerns, the General Assembly of UNWTO adopted in 1999 the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, a roadmap for a sustainable and responsible development of tourism worldwide, addressing all key stakeholders within the sector. Comprising a comprehensive set of principles covering socio-economic, cultural and environmental dimensions of tourism, the Code of Ethics has been tailored to help maximize tourism’s benefits while minimizing its negative impacts.

As a token of recognition to the sector’s importance, and having recently adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within its 2030 agenda agreed last year, the United Nations declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Coinciding with this important landmark, the holding of the 3rd International Congress on Ethics and Tourism comes at a challenging time where tourism keeps booming although the protection of human rights, the natural resources and social cohesion need to be taken more seriously into account in all spheres of development.

In an increasingly interconnected world, a closer scrutiny of governments’ actions and corporate impact on societies and the environment, as well as the need for more responsible consumption patterns are becoming more evident. Moreover, businesses are coming to realize that they cannot thrive in the long run if the resources they lean on keep deteriorating and if they fail to provide decent jobs. It is clear that tourism cannot stay out of this growing and certainly positive trend. This conference championed by UNWTO and the European Commission, with the generous collaboration of the Government of Poland, aims to demonstrate the successful stories illustrating this encouraging behavioural shift.


The 3rd International Congress on Ethics and Tourism aims to explore ways in which the tourism sector can harness the principles of sustainability, shared responsibility and accountability of all stakeholders in developing tourism infrastructure, products and services. It will further showcase good practices of private-public cooperation through policies and strategies based on human rights, transparency and good governance which also takes into account the voice of civil society.

The Congress will draw particular attention to the following aspects: a) inclusive tourism and universal accessibility for the benefit of all groups of population and the industry’s competitiveness; b) management of natural and cultural heritage amidst the growing tourist numbers and conservation concerns; and, c) corporate social responsibility which not only fosters the implementation of the SDGs across the tourism supply chain, but also contributes to innovation and the overall service quality.


The Congress is aiming to gather an international audience comprised of policy makers, officials of national tourism administrations, representatives of travel and tourism companies and trade associations, representatives of international organizations, non-governmental organizations and civil society bodies, as well as academics and media outlets engaged in the issues of sustainable development and ethical business practices.


With the support of: