Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran
World Tourism Day 2013
Bismillah – hey – Rahman – ur – Rehim,
Salaam va Sobhe be kheyr
Mr. Najafi, Vice President and President of the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.
Excellences, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.
I have two duties today. The first is to read the statement of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the occasion of World Tourism Day, and the second is to share a few perspectives of my own as the UN Resident Coordinator here in your beautiful country.
On the occasion of World Tourism Day, Mr. Ban Ki-moon has shared some very short comments which I would like to read to you now.
He says the following:
“With unsustainable consumption and climate change threatening global water resources, this year’s World Tourism Day highlights the responsibility of the tourism industry to safeguard and intelligently manage water. In this International Year of Water Cooperation, I urge tourism establishments to cut consumption and improve waste management and I call on individuals to play their part by making environmentally conscious choices when they travel. By making water saving a priority we can all help to build the future we want.”
Those are the words of our Secretary-General.
I would now like to use the remaining few minutes that I have been allotted to speak to share a few personal reflections.
As the UN Resident Coordinator in your country I have been privileged to live and work here for five months. But the issue of tourism is something that I have a very strong personal connection to, because I come from a very small island in the Caribbean.
As a boy, the economic survival of my family depended on tourists coming to the island. And I remember times that were good – and I remember times that were very difficult for our family – depending how many tourists landed on the island in those big silver planes.
Overall, tourism can be a great friend, but it must be managed properly, to be embraced properly.
I would now like to speak as a guest in your country and tell you my impressions of the last five months.
I have traveled by car in these five months through many provinces including Isfahan, Fars, Yazd, Mazandaran, and of course Semnan and here in Tehran.
And I can tell you that you have a stunning infrastructure, stunning history and an incredible heritage that would attract any of the eco- and heritage tourists that are now looking to travel across this planet.
Not only do you have five thousand years of history as a crossroads of civilizations, but you have preserved that history.
And for those tourists who want to understand how we have benefited from the ancient civilization of your country, they have plenty to choose from.
The impact of the Elamites, the Achaemenids, the Parthians, the Sassanians, the arrival of Islam, the Mongol arrival, the Safavids and the recent history has left a rich bounty for the culture of the world to breathe in and draw great inspiration from.
And all of that comes before we talk about the immense hospitality and the friendliness of the people of this great nation.
So I will agree with the analysis that has just been presented by the distinguished speaker about the projections that can happen and the economic potential of tourism in Iran.
But there are some things that we need to be careful about as we move forward into an era that embraces tourism.
When tourists come they would want to enjoy the beauty of the country, but we have to ensure that that beauty is preserved.
And there is a lot of importance that we need to attach to preserving our water, preserving our forests, preserving our rangelands and ensuring that we still have enough biodiversity to provide for environmental sustainability.
So in essence we must all be responsible citizens of this country and of this planet.
I agree with what has been said earlier, tourism is an incredible tool with public diplomacy and we would look forward – the United Nations and all of the sister and brother countries of the Islamic Republic – we look forward to cooperating with you to ensure this joint and shared future.
But in order to enjoy, we must first conserve and preserve.