Difficult to believe as it is, lately both traditional and social media have adopted the word as though it was a distinct reality. One self-styled lexicologist recently defined it as “the phenomenon of a popular destination or sight becoming overrun with tourists in an unsustainable way”. However, popular, overrun and unsustainable are all difficult to define and often disagreed upon.
As Russia prepares to host the 22nd Olympic Winter Games, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has begun to release the findings of its Fifth Assessment Report. If the climate projections of the IPCC report prove accurate, only six of the previous 19 host cities will be cold enough to host a reliable Games by the end of the century, according to a new study1 published this month by the University of Waterloo and the Management Centre Innsbruck.
As my colleague Vera Barbosa said in her blog last week, here at CABI HQ in the UK we have been experiencing our wettest spring and early summer on record. Not surprisingly therefore, when going on holiday many of those who are able like to jet off to parts of the world where we can count on warm, dry weather which we don’t get to enjoy at home at the moment. But influxes of tourists demanding frequent showers, swimming pools, lush gardens and maybe even nice green golf courses put huge pressure on water resources in these dryer destinations, and it can be local communities who lose out when wealthy tourism businesses demand secure water supplies. The issue is highlighted today by pressure group Tourism Concern, which has launched a campaign for ‘Water Equity in Tourism’ with the release today of a report which uses case studies to highlight how disproportionate use of fresh water by tourists can create problems for local communities in developing countries.
A decision announced earlier in April by British tour operator First Choice to sell only all-inclusive holidays from next year has triggered a debate about the pros and cons of all-inclusive resorts. Leading travel writer Simon Calder is quoted by the BBC News website as calling all-inclusives "the devil's work", while industry bodies and pressure groups have also voiced criticism. But other operators of all-inclusive resorts have defended their record of spending money locally and being environmentally and socially responsible.
Earlier this week, some 600 representatives from over 100 countries, representing all sectors of the tourism industry (public and private sector, NGOs and governments) met in the idyllic Swiss resort of Davos to debate the global challenge of climate change as it affects and is affected by tourism, at the 2nd International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism. This meeting was organised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in collaboration with UNEP and the World Meteorological Organisation, and included many senior tourism figures. As CABI is a leading information provider in both environmental and tourism literature, I was lucky enough to be able to attend, both to learn more about the issues and consider what contribution CABI may be able to make in the area of information dissemination – one of the components of the Davos Declaration which was drafted at the end of the conference.
To give a full picture of the debate at the conference, and the issues involved, would take a book rather than a blog entry. But I’ll try and give a very broad-brush overview of the issues and conclusions, and will be presenting more detail of some of the ideas presented in CABI’s subscription website, Leisuretourism.com, over the next few days for those whose institutions are subscribers. There were some very impressive presentations at Davos from some leading figures in both the public and private sector, and it was heartening to see areas where governments and private companies are starting to take real action. It was clear that the tourism sector recognises the need for action, not least to avoid being used as a scapegoat for climate change and the target for kneejerk response, as is increasingly the case in some European countries (the UK’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s ears may have been burning, as speaker after speaker attacked his doubling of Air Passenger Duty, without designating the revenue raised for any positive action on transport, the environment or climate).