Tourism and the Green Economy. Go Green
Tourism has been recognized by major multilateral world agencies, the World Bank, IMF and United Nations, as a key economic sector for achieving a global transition from a brown to a green economic system. This transition includes an incumbent ethical mission, seeking to improve ‘human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities’ (UNEP 2011: 1–2). Nevertheless, five key challenges have been identified to tourism playing its part in fulfilling the aims of a green economy, four of which are directly related to its interaction with the natural environment and encompass a strong behavioural component. They are: a consumer trend to travel further for shortening durations of time; a preference for energy-intensive transportation based upon non-renewable fuel usage with an accompanying growth in GHG emissions; excessive water consumption; and damage to marine and terrestrial biodiversity.
Simultaneously, the United Nations Environment Programme holds that the driving force of the greening of the tourism industry is consumer demand. The favoured approach from the World Bank and IMF to change environmentally destructive behaviour and reflect the full costs of an increasing ecological scarcity is through price and market correction. Other favoured approaches place a reliance on the greening of technology as a solution to environmental problems. This paper argues that these measures will not be sufficient to deal with the environmental challenges facing the tourism industry and system, and that without a stronger environmental ethic in the market it will be difficult to impose controls on tourists behaviour designed for environmental conservation.
It subsequently analyzes the conceptualization of environmental ethics, the rationale for the evolution of an environmental ethic in society and evaluates its relevance to the tourism market.
Did you know?
Tourism is one of ten economic sectors identified in the Green Economy Report, whose greening would increase prosperity, create employment and reduce poverty.Under a scenario of green investments, tourism would make an even larger contribution to GDP, with significant environmental benefits including reductions in water consumption (18%), energy use (44%) and CO2 emissions (52%).
Tourism Advancing Sustainable Development
Tourism is today one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors in the world. In 2012, one billion international tourists and over four billion domestic tourists are expected to travel the world, generating more than US$ 1 trillion in international tourism receipts. The sector currently accounts for 5% of direct global GDP, 30% of the world’s services exports and generates one in twelve jobs worldwide.
For many developing countries, tourism is one of the main sources of foreign exchange. Tourism is of particular importance for the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs), ranking among the top three sources of export earnings for nearly half of all LDCs.
According to the UN Green Economy Report, the greening of tourism, which involves significant investment in efficiency improvements in energy, water and waste systems, would stimulate job creation, especially in poorer communities, with increased local hiring and sourcing, and have a positive spill-over effect on other areas of the economy. The direct economic contribution of tourism to local communities would also increase; maximizing the amount of tourist spending that is retained by the local economy.
Finally, a green tourism economy would ensure significant environmental benefits including reductions in water consumption, energy use and CO2 emissions. Given tourism’s sheer size and reach, even small changes towards greening can have significant impacts.
With adequate policies and investment, the tourism sector can be at the forefront of the transformation to a green economy. Greening the growing tourism sector would strengthen its capacity to generate economic growth, jobs and development worldwide, while protecting the environment for future generations.
UNWTO Sustainable Development of Tourism Programme – sdt.unwto.org
UNWTO – Journey to Rio+20 – icr.unwto.org/en/content/journey-rio20-0
UNEP – Green Economy Initiative – unep.org/greeneconomy/
- New York state ups investment in tourism (bizjournals.com)
- UNEP: Greening Trade Imperative for Sustainable Development (madrastourist.wordpress.com)
- “A good idea needs good people to work for the people and environment”. (harambeenation.wordpress.com)
- Green Economy Potential in Jordan (cleantechsolutions.wordpress.com)
- The International Institute for Peace through Tourism (madrastourist.wordpress.com)
- New tourism trends: the rise of responsible tourism (lagomaggioremeetingindustry.wordpress.com)