UN Tourism has reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening the sector’s resilience and increasing its importance for inclusive development in Small Island Developing States. 

At the Fourth International Conference for SIDS (Antigua and Barbuda, 27-30 May), UN Tourism joined government leaders and fellow UN agencies to identify a shared pathway towards resilient prosperity. The conference concluded with the adoption of the Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS), with tourism at its core.   

According to UN Tourism data, the SIDS received 36 million international tourist arrivals in 2023, representing 91% of pre-pandemic levels worldwide, meaning recovery rates outpaced the global figure of 89%. Although SIDS represent only 3% of all arrivals in the world, tourism is a lifeline in Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) where the sector accounts for 38% of all exports (excluding Singapore), going up to 85% in the cases of some countries.  

There is nevertheless a pressing need to transition into a sustainable and resilient tourism model that places people and planet at the core. Localizing the supply chain to reduce leakages, de-risking investments and protecting biodiversity are fundamental for resilience, as outlined in the ABAS.

Both at the Plenary discussions and during the Interactive Dialogue on Revitalising SIDS Economies, UN Tourism’s Executive Director Zoritsa Urosevic expressed its commitment to support SIDS through ongoing initiatives and programmes. A call was made to support productive sectors (manufacturing, agrifood, fisheries, creative industries); prioritise local, formal job creation; develop social protection mechanisms; integrate circularity as a core business model; protect and restore ecosystems; support climate action; and explore innovative finance in connection with blue carbon. 

UN Tourism organized a side-event on “Regenerative Tourism: Policy, Practice and Finance”, in connection with the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism. The Ministers of Tourism of Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Sint Marteen, as well as the local Ministry of Saint Kitts, presented their policies and practices. The Pacific Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Tourism Organization and experts from Sustainable Travel International, TUI Care Foundation and NOAH ReGen also took part in the discussions, especially addressing the need for collaboration and finance.

The Ministry of Tourism of Antigua and Barbuda and the destination of Saint Kitts became signatories of the Glasgow Declaration. In collaboration with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), University of Oxford SDG Impact Lab, Catalytic Finance Foundation and Pegasus Capital Advisors, UN Tourism co-organized the virtual side-event "Better data for a better tourism in SIDS".

The event highlighted the role of the Statistical Framework for Measuring the Sustainability of Tourism in providing guidance for more harmonized and meaningful metrics to measure tourism's impact, dependencies and growth ‘beyond GDP’ as well as the role of market intelligence on creating relevant knowledge for action, and the importance of measuring tourism projects and initiatives at all levels, by using tools such as Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through Tourism – Toolkit of Indicators for Projects (TIPs) or STAR - Self-assessment Tool to Assist Rural Destinations. 

Discussions took also among UN Heads of Delegations regarding the implementation of ABAS and an inter-agency nexus dialogue on Tourism in SIDS  titled “Advancing Sustainable Development of SIDS through Tourism: Fostering Sustainable and Circular Consumption and Production” was organized within the framework of the One Planet network involving FAO, ILO, UNDP, UNEP, UNFCCC and UN Tourism.