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Since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, there is increasing awareness of the importance of sustainable forms of tourism.Although tourism, one of the world largest industries, was not the subject of a chapter in Agenda 21, the Programme for the further implementation of Agenda 21, adopted by the General Assembly at its nineteenth special session in 1997, included sustainable tourism as one of its sectoral themes.
Change of local identity and values: Figure 4: UNWTO's Tourism 2020 Vision forecasts that international arrivals are expected to reach nearly 1.6 billion by the year 2020.
Of these worldwide arrivals in 2020, 1.2 billion will be intraregional and 378 million will be long-haul travellers.
Some tourist resorts empty their sewage and other wastes directly into water surrounding coral reefs and other sensitive marine habitats. For example, careless boating, diving, snorkeling, and fishing have substantially damaged coral reefs in many parts of the world, through people touching reefs, stirring up sediment, and dropping anchors.
Marine animals such as whale sharks, seals, dugongs, dolphins, whales, and birds are also disturbed by increased numbers of boats, and by people approaching too closely.
Particularly for many islands in the Caribbean, cruise tourism is an important market segment.
In the period from 1990 to 1999 there was an increase from 13.71 million international tourist arrivals to 20.32 million (CTO).
At the same time, coasts are under very high population pressure due to rapid urbanization processes.
More than half of today’s world population live in coastal areas (within 60 km from the sea) and this number is on the rise.
For example, 85% of the 1.8 million people who visit Australia's Great Barrier Reef are concentrated in two small areas, Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands, which together have a human population of just 130,000 or so.
In many areas, massive new tourist developments have been built - including airports, marinas, resorts, and golf courses.