Whether staying at the Wynn Las Vegas, or taking a mesmerizing cruise in the Caribbean, or even a jungle safari in South Africa, all these experiences have a certain impact on the host ecosystem. And when done in excess, these experiences deplete the resources of the host ecosystem, making it unsustainable and unviable in the long run. This gives rise to the need to have a sustainable tourism model, which supports not only the travelers, the travel industry, and the host community, but also the generations to come and their needs.
When we come across concrete structures where once dense forests stood, or when we look at a pristine lagoon, which has turned into a ‘garbage-spread,’ we realize the impact of our actions on Nature. If we continue on the same path, slowly but inevitably, these destinations will lose their charm that drives travelers there.
There are a few numbers we should look at, to better understand the need for Sustainable Tourism:
- International Tourist Arrivals: 25 Million (1950); 1.5 Billion (2019)
- 80% of the world’s coral reefs are at risk
- 35% of the world’s mangroves are destroyed
- Average Annual Loss of Ice: 40 billion tons (1980s); 475 billion tons (2010s)
- Average Annual Rise in Sea Level: 1.4 mm (1990); 3.4 mm (2016)
- Global Tourism Industry’s carbon footprint is 4.5 gigatons; 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
- Average Hotel Guest’s Water Consumption: 300 liters (Basic Hotels); 1800 liters (Luxury Hotel)
- The last fully intact ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic collapsed at the end of July 2020
Aspects to consider for Sustainable Tourism:
- Responsible Usage of Resources
- Reduction in Over-Consumption and Elimination of Wastage
- Preservation of Biodiversity
- Conservation of Socio-Cultural Heritage of Host Community
- Creating long-term Socio-Economic Benefits (for all)
Maintaining the environmental, social, and economic aspects are critical for Sustainable Tourism, and not just preserving the natural environment and its resources. We need to ensure that the local community benefits and develops, without losing their socio-cultural heritage.
The UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO) and the UNGA are extensively working on sustainable tourism development and are working on many initiatives like Hotel Energy Solutions (HES), Global Tourism Plastics Initiative (GTPI), One Planet, Resilience of Tourism, and Small Islands Developing States (SIDS).
Sustainable Tourism is an on-going process that requires us to constantly monitor, analyze, implement corrective/preventive measures, and go back to monitoring again. It would also require a high level of collaboration between various governments and the tourism industry to achieve the results we hope for. We also need to ensure that travelers have a meaningful experience while also understanding the need for sustainability and follow the practices.
Sustainable Tourism is the only way forward!