Lionel Messi made UN tourism ambassador
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Lionel Messi made UN tourism ambassador

IT GOES without saying that Lionel Messi is one of the greatest footballers on the planet. And now, he has made driving responsible tourism for our planet his responsibility.

United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili officially appointed Messi as UNWTO Ambassador for Responsible Tourism after an F.C. Barcelona – Leganés match in Barcelona over the weekend.

“Messi is a unique sportsman and an example of how willpower and constant work yield good results. It is a great honor to have Messi joining UNWTO and other well-known personalities in promoting the positive values and benefits that tourism represents,” said Pololikashvili.

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Together with UNWTO, Messi will promote the value of responsible tourism, which the UN defines as tourism which “helps maximise the sector’s benefits while minimising its potentially negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and societies across the globe”.

The need for sustainable and responsible tourism has come to the forefront of countries around the world, as destinations like Thailand’s phenomenal islands are now buckling under the weight of overtourism and Cambodia’s orphaned children are being exploited in “voluntourism”.

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UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, appoints Messi as UNWTO Ambassador for Responsible Tourism this at Camp Nou, Barcelona on April 7, 2018. Source: UNWTO

It’s fair to say that it’s a huge role for the five-time Ballon D´Or winner to take on.

“During my travels, I have had the opportunity to know other cultures and societies as well as others ways to see the world and this is very enriching,” Messi said.

“The World Tourism Organisation as a specialised agency of the United Nations works to make tourism a source of development and I am happy I can join this mission of promoting responsible tourism.”

Messi isn’t the only public figure who has been sanctioned by the organisation. He joins a couple of influential personalities in championing the transformative power of responsible tourism. In February 2018, Spanish footballer Fernando Hierro was named Ambassador for Responsible Tourism.

“As tourists, each of us can change the world if we act responsibly with regard to the places, the people and the cultures we visit. I feel part of this team and I support the World Tourism Organisation in its efforts to ensure that tourism benefits everyone,” Hierro said upon accepting the distinction from Pololikashvili.

Hierro joined the likes of Spanish football coach Vicente del Bosque, who was also named Ambassador for Responsible Tourism, as well as a score of tourism ministers and stakeholders.

Interestingly, Sanrio’s beloved superstar “cat” Hello Kitty was also appointed a UNWTO ambassador.

SEE ALSO: Japan Railways partners with Hello Kitty for pink Shinkansen

Last year, UNWTO and Sanrio signed an agreement to appoint Hello Kitty as Special Ambassador of the International Year. The Japanese darling supported UNWTO’s “Travel. Enjoy. Respect” campaign which encourages tourists to use travel to promote positive change around the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJ53rSS1ghs

“Travelling opens our minds and our hearts and lets us see how we are equal,” Hello Kitty said in the campaign video. “Travelling is a gift. When you travel, remember to honor our place. Respect nature, respect culture and respect your host.”

The video was shown at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, inviting travelers to take part in the campaign.

This article originally appeared on our sister website Travel Wire Asia.