SUSTAINABLE tourism has entered the travel spotlight, with people becoming more aware of its significance. To illustrate the point, the United Nations has issued Hello Kitty as the ‘special ambassador’ to promote sustainable tourism development.
The cute feline character has been best friends with girls and boys the world over since the 1970s. Due to the character’s harmless and inoffensive demeanor, and her international appeal to a wide demographic, she is the ideal candidate to educate travelers about responsible tourism.
2017 was named the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development” by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The year has been spent promoting responsible tourism by the organization, and part of this campaign is the ‘Travel. Enjoy. Respect.’ aspect.
The loveable and hugely recognized Japanese character isn’t a cat at all, simply a young girl. But regardless of whether you see her as a furry feline or girly-girl, she will hopefully have an impact on the way people travel, where they go and how they do it.
“Traveling opens our minds and our hearts, and lets us see how we are equal,” said Hello Kitty in a video inviting people to take part in the campaign. “Travelling is a gift. When you travel, remember to honor our place. Respect nature, respect the culture and respect your host.”
In recent years, adventure tourism and fan tourism have increased massively. Places such as Northern Ireland and Croatia in Europe have seen an increase in tourism as fans of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones want to explore the incredible settings in which that the program is filmed.
Similarly, Thailand is facing struggles with over-adventure tourism in the protected forests of Chiang Mai. The region has 11 zipline operators, costing up to US$100 per go, which means profit for the companies, but this level of tourism ultimately has a detrimental impact on the forest.
The Hello Kitty campaign aims to tackle this worsening situation, because, after all, education is key to understanding how to be a responsible tourist.
The video is currently being broadcast at Narita International Airport in Japan and will also be published across the UN’s social media channels.