UNWTO convenes cities in Lisbon to cooperate on a sustainable and inclusive urban tourism agenda

The first UNWTO Mayors Forum for Sustainable Urban Tourism, co-organised by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Ministry of Economy of Portugal and the Lisbon Municipality concluded recently in Lisbon, Portugal. The event gathered Mayors and high-level city representatives from around the world, UN agencies and the private sector to design a shared leadership aimed at ensuring that tourism helps in creating cities for all.

Under the theme ‘Cities for all: Building cities for citizens and visitors’, the forum explored issues and solutions for developing and managing tourism in cities in a way that promotes economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

In a time of intense debate over the growing number of tourists, the livability and sustainability of cities, the forum exchanged ideas as well as good practices on urban tourism and destination management, discussed innovative tools and public policies on urban tourism at the national and local levels along with promoting the integration of tourism into wider national and local urban development agenda.

“The income generated from tourism contributes significantly to the socio-economic and cultural development of many cities and its surroundings. Yet, the growth of urban tourism also creates important challenges in terms of the use of natural resources, socio-cultural impact, pressure on infrastructure, mobility, congestion management and relationship with host communities. Tourism policies should thus be designed as integrated urban policies that promote a well-balanced city economically, socially and environmentally,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

The Portuguese Minister of Economy, Pedro Siza Vieira, acknowledged that, “Tourism is a major driver for the Portuguese economy. Portugal welcomes this first Mayors Forum as an international stage for discussing the challenges that urban tourism faces and how local communities can benefit the most from tourism. The Lisbon Declaration is a firm commitment from all participants so that tourism contributes materially to the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Portuguese Secretary of State for Tourism, Ana Mendes Godinho, added that “social sustainability in tourism is one of the main priorities in our 2027 Tourism Strategy. We launched a Sustainability Programme for the development of projects by the civil society that involves local populations and tourists so that tourism leaves the value in the territories.”

Issues discussed included big data and innovative solutions, new business models, creative cities and events, infrastructure, resources and planning, local community engagement and empowerment and how to ensure the full inclusion of tourism in the wider urban agenda.

The Forum adopted the Lisbon Declaration on Sustainable Urban Tourism, in which participants reinforced their commitment to align urban tourism policies with the United Nations New Urban Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, namely Goal 11 – ‘Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’.