‘Destinations at Risk’: Report warns tourism on ‘shaky foundation’. Ian Taylor reports

‘Tourism costs are invisible burden on destinations’

Tourism is built “on a shaky foundation” in many destinations, according to a Travel Foundation report which warns overtourism “will become increasingly difficult to manage”.

The report, Destinations at Risk:

The Invisible Burden of Tourism, says: “Countries have yet to fully confront tourism’s hidden costs.” Industry charity The Travel

Foundation joined sustainability consultancy EplerWood International and academics at Cornell University in producing the report, which suggests studies on the economic impact of tourism “have failed to account for the full risks and costs of tourism growth”. It suggests: “The growth of tour- ism is leading to damage in desti- nations that is largely unreported.” The authors note destinations

have been left to finance “additional infrastructure for energy, waste, waste water and protection of natural and cultural resources without recompense from the tourism economy”.

They argue: “The invisible

burden of tourism on local economies appears to be steadily weakening underdeveloped infrastructure . . . [and] only 11% of national tourism administrations are implementing national policies related to environmental sustainability.” The report warns: “As the industry grows, the cost of managing and developing sustainable infrastructure will weigh heavily on destinations. This puts tourism on a shaky foundation . . . the risk of bottom-line impact is high.” In an introduction to the report,

Travel Foundation chairman Noel Josephides argues: “We are not getting to the root of the problem

FELTON: ‘Governments need right skills to manage tourism better’

. . . not enough is changing in the way we manage tourism.” Megan Epler Wood, principal author of the report, said: “The Earth’s greatest treasures are cracking under the weight of the soaring tourism economy. New data-driven systems to identify the cost of managing tourism’s most valued assets are required.” Travel Foundation chief

executive Salli Felton said: “It’s not enough to call on governments and municipalities to manage tourism better if they don’t have access to

“The Earth’s greatest treasures are cracking under the weight of the tourism economy”

the right skills and resources.” › Destinations at Risk: The Invisible Burden of Tourism is available at thetravelfoundation.

CANCUN: The report says hotel building has damaged beaches

Report warns studies fail to measure tourism’s full costs

The Destinations at Risk report argues current economic-impact research methods hide the full costs of tourism. These do “not serve the urgent

needs of municipalities to account for the costs of managing tourists in a way that will keep tourism from draining local budgets”. “Tourism businesses may ostensibly pay for municipal

services such as water and energy and use of public assets, but additional costs are often passed on partially or fully to residents.” The authors argue: “We need to

develop approaches that enable localities to measure and manage the true costs of operations.” The report highlights the

problem in relation to energy, water use, sewage and solid waste

as well as debt and climate change. On energy, it notes: “Most gov- ernments don’t know the extent to which tourism is driving up energy costs at the destination level.” On water: “Visitors take showers

more often, use pools and frequent gardens . . . using much more water than local people” so that in some destinations, including Barbados, Malta and the UAE “visitorwater

consumption exceeds the availability of renewable water resources by a factor of 15”. On sewage: “Management of

sewage is commonly not factored in by the sector as a cost of doing business in emerging economies.” On solid waste: “The level of

solid waste produced by tourism is frequently not factored into the costs of local municipalities.”

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Cancun illustrates how revenue is lost to the resort

The Destinations at Risk report cites examples of the problems arising from unmanaged tourism. Looking at Cancun, Mexico,

it says: “As tourism grew, so did infrastructure costs, without recom- pense from the tourism economy. “Only 30% of the waste water

[sewage] was treated. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of solid waste were transported annually to illegal garbage dumps, leaving contaminated water to flow into ground water. Coastal erosion from hotel overbuilding on fragile coastlines led to the increasing disappearance of Cancun’s beaches. “[Yet] Cancun’s taxation system placed 80% of tourist revenues into the budgets of the national tourism authority . . . The region is increasingly without assets to protect the destination.”


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