The U.N. World Tourism Organization said Monday it has appointed FC Barcelona's Argentine star Lionel Messi as an ambassador to promote responsible tourism.
"During my travels I have had the opportunity to know other cultures and societies as well as other ways to see the world and this is very enriching," Messi said in a statement released by the Madrid-based United Nations body announcing his nomination.
"I am happy I can join this mission of promoting responsible tourism," the five-time winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award added as the body steps up its campaign to minimize harm tourism can cause to the environment and historical sites.
The U.N. body defines "responsible tourism" as tourism that "helps maximize the sector's benefits while minimizing its potentially negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and societies across the globe."
World Tourism Organization chief Zurab Pololikashvili said it was a "great honor" to have Messi promote "the positive values and benefits that tourism represents.
"Messi is a unique sportsman and an example of how willpower and constant work yield good results," he added.
The 30-year-old is the leading scorer in La Liga this season with 29 goals and is also the all-time top marksman in Spain's top flight.
He is also the top scorer in the history of Barcelona and Argentina.