Responding to Climate Change

Tourism is both a contributor to climate change and a victim of its impacts. Climate change mitigation and adaptation are not just about protecting the environment, but also about protecting the destination communities, environments, and heritage, as well as the tourism industry itself. Because tourism touches multiple industries, including transport, food production, retail, and construction, a positive shift in the sector would have a major impact on economies around the globe.

Climate change also has real consequences for destination communities around the world, from lack of access to clean water supplies, increased natural disasters, erratic agricultural production, increased threat of poverty, political instability, damage to their natural environment, and even changes in traveler preferences.

We advocate for a profound shift in the travel and tourism sector, with preparation and effective risk management, adaptation, and resilience, and decarbonization being fundamental to the industry’s future.

Addressing Overtourism

While tourists have flocked to popular destinations for decades, the recent emergence of this term demonstrates just how pressing this issue has become. In 2017 and 2018, Barcelona and Venice became the poster cities for overtourism when residents took to the streets, protesting cruise ships, Airbnb, and the unrelenting wave of city day-trippers.

This phenomenon spread globally, impacting national parks and protected areas, beaches and coastal communities, World Heritage Sites, and fragile historic cities.

But in 2020, the number of global international arrivals suffered a staggering drop to under 400 million. Although destinations around the world have fallen victim to overtourism, in the era of pandemics, political instability, and the powerful influence of social media, these destinations are just as prone to severe under-tourism. The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light that the problem is not just “too many tourists,” but how to manage tourism in a way that maximizes its benefits to people, the planet, and destinations sustainably.

The twin threats of overtourism and under-tourism have caused destination management solutions to emerge. Governments, tourism businesses, destination management organizations, non-profits, and others have put good tools to work to solve this issue. The solutions deal with transport, ticketing, creative use of technology, dispersal and diversification, strengthening responsible tourism, and visitor education.

Ultimately, destinations must proactively manage tourism. Sustainable tourism comes as a result of strategic planning with holistic stakeholder involvement, good management, and active monitoring of tourism’s impacts.

Preserving Natural & Cultural Heritage

Biodiversity and cultural heritage are intrinsically linked and form the foundation upon which the needs of humanity are filled. In communities around the world, both cultural and natural heritage are at risk, often due to short-sighted tourism models. Sustainable tourism can play a critical role in conservation, protecting plant and animal life, and supporting communities to preserve their cultures, traditions, and livelihoods.

Awe-inspiring biodiversity and unique cultures are what make our world a wonderful place to live – and what makes a place worth visiting. Together, they make up the distinctive character of a destination, or its sense of place. 

However, the way tourism has developed in the past several decades has put at risk, severely harmed, watered down, and, in some cases, decimated those very qualities. When the natural and cultural heritage of a destination is eroded, not only is our planet harmed, so too is the competitive advantage for tourism.

Thoughtful, strategic tourism planning and management can help protect and even enhance these unique aspects of place.

Promiting Equity

We advocate for a holistic approach to tourism that prioritizes the economic and social well-being of local communities. Tourism, when done right, can act as a driver of sustainable development in many communities.

The first step to ensuring the long-term well-being of our most beloved places is by ensuring the welfare of their residents. By promoting community-based tourism and sustainable economic livelihoods, local communities will have the resources and incentives to preserve their own biodiversity and cultural heritage.

As our world struggles for economic stability and a more equitable, just society for all, we must examine how the tourism industry can further these goals. Through critical scrutiny of our current systems, we can reframe tourism in a way that better ensures equitable economic opportunity and prosperity for all.