Tourism and environment



Tourism and environment


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Tourism and environment


Eco, green, nature, soft: tourism and environment

The word “tourism” appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary for the first time in 1811, but this human activity actually goes back considerably further. During the Middle Ages, people travelled mainly for religious reasons, and after the Renaissance people began to travel in greater numbers for pleasure, education and knowledge.

The era of package tours began on 5 June 1841, with Thomas Cook’s exceptional train trip from Leicester to Loughborough. The explosion of travel and tourism in the last 50 years could be compared to the Industrial Revolution.

Tourism, whatever its scale or nature, has become an undeniable fact of modern life. It is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world. It accounts for 10% of the world’s real net output, but many developing countries and island states are dependent on tourism to a far greater degree. Figures released by the World Tourism Organization indicate that the number of international tourists has increased 25-fold since 1950 (1997:617 million). If current trends continue, international tourism will double every 20 years.

All regions in the world grew, and the fastest developing region continued to be East Asia and the Pacific with 14.6% growth, and 16% of the total market. Europe saw an increase of 25 million international tourists (5.9% growth rate), and 57.7% of the market share, by far the largest among the world’ regions. The Americas are the second-biggest region, with 18.5% of arrivals. Air transport increased its share against road in international holidays; together these two account for 85% of all international trips. Rail and sea transport remain below 8% each.

The use of environmentally friendly forms of transport, such as the train, is falling. The percentage share of leisure rail travel is now just 15% and fewer people are taking their vacations by train each year. Despite the advent of the Eurostar, which connects the UK with mainland Europe, train use by tourists is falling across the continent.  All this adversely affects the global climate, with implications for climate change and ground level ozone, known as smog. Cars and planes emit volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide, the precursors to ozone, a pollutant harmful to human health and the environment when trapped in the lower atmosphere.

Environmentalists are calling for increased landing and takeoff charges for flights under 800 kilometers, to curb a growing trend toward short-haul flights.

Long-haul tourism is accounting for an ever increasing share; this segment is currently growing at an above-average rate. Furthermore, tourism patterns have become more diversified: new activities have joined traditional recreational patterns. As a consequence, even remote and so-far untouched natural areas are being visited by tourists more frequently.

Year 2000 was an exceptional year for tourism, with special millennium events boosting international trips and, in some cases, causing travellers to advance vacations that would have been taken in 2001.

Experience has shown tourism to be one of the world’s most resilient industries. They note that during the crisis travellers usually postpone trips rather than cancel them altogether, so that when the crisis winds down there is often a pent up demand that results in a mini travel boom.

The positive effects of tourism are the creation of jobs and income, promotion of intercultural relations and mutual understanding. Its unfortunate consequences are ever-increasing traffic, over-exploitation of natural resources and generally inappropriate behaviour of the tourists: more often than not, the effect of the growth of tourism has been serious environmental deterioration, affecting both the human and natural environment and cultural heritage. Due to these negative side-effects, tourism is endangering the sole grounds for its existence. An increasing number of tourists are complaining about the nuisance caused by the density of traffic, polluted beaches and landscapes that have been either disfigured or on which too many buildings have been erected.

Today, most people involved in tourism have realized that a change in attitude is long overdue. Since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the terms “soft” and “green” tourism of the 1980s have been succeeded by demands for a more sustainable tourism. A sustainable development policy ensures the durability of natural resources (water, air, soil and biological diversity) and meets the needs of the present, with the aim of not to jeopardize the ability of future generations to foster their own economic development. If an activity is sustainable, theoretically it can continue forever, because “sustainable” is ecologically and socio-culturally compatible. In English to “sustain” is to “keep going”, and this is what we are talking about here, keeping going the planet as a home for humanity.

Sustainable tourism is clean and tidy tourism, it does not generate litter, sewage, pollution, noise or visual pollution.

During the 1980s we were speaking about soft tourism. Whereas green or nature tourism refers to ecological soundness, soft tourism also includes socio-cultural components. Soft tourism therefore includes: nature compatibility, health compatibility, socio-compatibility, economic compatibility, and physical compatibility.

“Green” means a healthier life anywhere, it means ecological responsibility, local economic vitality, cultural sensitivity, and experiential richness. It’s trying to find ways to have a little impact and give a little more back to the planet and ourselves, including joy and pleasure, of course. Being green means think and dream green, go green and choose sustainable transportation, stay green and choose green accommodations, eat and drink green, locally and, if possible, organically, reduce, reuse, and recycle, shop green, spend green, and do green business, indulge in green and healthy things. It is always good to start by feeding our mind and soul. And why not? Foster also urban green tourism, that  is ecotourism in the city.

Sustainable tourism operates in harmony with the local environment, community and cultures, so that these become the permanent beneficiaries and not the victims of tourism development. Local, that’s the essence of sustainability, think local, act global.

By resolution 439 (XIV) adopted at its Fourteenth session (Seoul, Republic of Korea/Osaka, Japan), the WTO General Assembly decided to select the following theme for the twenty-third edition of World Tourism Day: “Ecotourism, the key to sustainable development”. The official celebration of the twenty-third World Tourism Day will take place in Costa Rica, on  September 27, 2002.

Tourism depends on biological diversity: an unspoilt natural environment is essential for successful tourism. Tourism is dependent on a clean environment. Moreover, many tourists are seeking an intact natural environment and, increasingly, spectacular natural scenery. In recent years, the importance of nature-oriented tourism has been growing even faster than other forms of tourism.

In addition to traditional tourist destinations, such as coasts, lakes and mountains, more and more unusual and particularly attractive natural areas have been developed for tourism, e.g. high mountains and glaciers, steppes and deserts, natural watercourses and coral reefs. Even remote and barely accessible areas such as tropical rain forests, the Arctic and the Antarctic are being opened up to adventure-loving tourists.

The most required forms of recreation in natural areas are climbing, kayaking, diving, hang-gliding or snow-boarding, often in those very areas that merit particular protection.

Yet, many sporting activities play a major role in endangering the natural habitat of flora and fauna. Water sports, such as sailing, surfing, water-skiing or motor-boating, have become a mass attraction. Motor-driven activities particularly put biotopes located close to lakes and coastal areas increasingly at risk.

Golf has become increasingly trendy throughout Europe. Unfortunately, it poses a big problem for the environment; large quantities of water, chemical fertilizers and pesticides are necessary to tend the grass mostly cultivated in unnatural habitats. This can become especially difficult on islands with limited water supplies. An average 18-hole course on Mallorca needs approximately 1500 to 2000 m3 per day, the equivalent of water consumed by an average population of 800 people.

Due to its extremely high requirements in terms of infrastructure, alpine skiing is also a sporting activity that can be harmful to the environment. The sealing of surfaces, excessive forest clearings and use of bulldozers have severe repercussions on the natural habitat in these regions.

An issue that often gives rise to concern is the insufficient degree of participation of the local population in the planning and implementation of tourist activities and in the distribution of the profits of tourism.

Bad planning of tourism and leisure activity developments may directly result in damaging the environment to varying degrees, depending on the region, the type of tourism and the number of tourists. Unplanned tourism development results in: increased stress on the local communities that receive tourists, locals and tourists competing for the same facilities, tourists’ influence on the behavioural patterns of local communities, disruption of local traditions and ways of life, pressure on the cultural heritage and resources.

The increasing intrusion into the ecological environment of noise, exhaust fumes, road and car park construction, traffic and overcrowded areas has an adverse effect on tourism in many regions. The paradox is that whilst visitors place great value on easy access to their destination, they also expect peace and quiet as well as little traffic once there. Various studies conclude that for many visitors a vital criterion in choosing their holiday destination is a relaxed traffic situation.

Not only do noise and exhaust fumes damage local flora and fauna, they have an indirect effect on the world climate, and thus also on biodiversity. According to pan-European studies, 80% of traffic-related CO2 emission stem form private car traffic. Airplanes show the worst energy balance.

Many airlines have found their environmental conscience over the past years and have increased their related activities. This includes measures to reduce emissions of noise, CO2, NOx, energy consumption and waste as well as measures within the respective office facilities.

Several airlines are reacting to the environmental challenge: Lufthansa, for example, publishes an annual environmental report and employs the most modern technology available for its fleet, thus reducing emission such as CO2 and unburned hydrocarbons whilst the NOx emission increased by 4.7%, decreasing waste on board. Since May 1994 Lufthansa employees in Hamburg have the opportunity once a week to compose their meals from dishes prepared with organically grown ingredients. The next step was to offer organic in-flight menus for business and first-class meals.

In the “Think along with us” programme, 45,800 DM were saved by switching off the ventilation systems in some areas for a certain period during the night, reducing waste on board and supporting environmental projects.

Above and beyond this, tourism offers a source of income that, in turn, may be used for the conservation of biological diversity. Examples of this are the fees that tourists pay to have access to protected areas.

However, it is really important that fees really are charged and that the natural environment is not opened for free. It is also important that the level of the fee corresponds to the attractiveness or the sensitiveness of the natural area in question and that fees collected are allocated to conservation in this area. Experience has shown that it is absolutely essential that the local population also receives a share of income from tourism.

The integration of the local population plays an essential role in successful implementation of sustainable tourism. It is advisable to integrate the local population at the stage where tourism concepts are developed. The use of regional products in the catering trade can further make a significant contribution towards safeguarding jobs and supporting the regional economy, in full harmony with the preservation of agriculturally formed historic landscapes. Increased use of local agricultural produce in the food and restaurant industry has a positive effect on reducing long-distance transportation, thus reducing noise and exhaust fumes.

In 1998, the United Nations General Assembly decided to observe 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism, offering an opportunity for interested local and national stakeholders to review the social and environmental benefits that the ecotourism industry can offer host countries when suitably developed.

Other goals of the International Year of Ecotourism include generate greater awareness among public authorities, the private sector, the civil society, and consumers regarding ecotourism’s capacity to contribute to the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage in natural and rural areas, and the improvement of standards of living in those areas.

The key global event for the Year will be the World Ecotourism Summit, hosted by Canada, in Quebec City, from 19 to 22 May, to which over 500 high-level delegates and experts from all regions are already pre-registered.

The Summit is expected to be the largest ever worldwide gathering of all types of stakeholders involved in ecotourism, including Ministers, public sector officials, tourism companies and their trade associations, local authorities, national park managers, indigenous peoples representatives, the academic community and others.

The workshop program will be arranged as follows: May 17: Ecotourism Planning and Management; May 18: Conservation Planning for Ecotourism; Communities and Ecotourism; Ecotourism Internet Marketing; Ecotourism Business Development; May 25-26: Ecolodge Planning and Development; Marine Ecotourism; Ecotourism Internet Marketing; Government Planning for Ecotourism.

According to a WTO/OMT study, ecotourism may represent between 2 and 4 per cent of global tourism.

Ecotourism is of special interest to UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) for its relationship with conservation, sustainability, and biological diversity. It has been marketed as a form of nature-based tourism, but it has also been studied as a sustainable development tool by NGOs, development experts and academics since 1990.

In the years since the concept was first defined, a general consensus has formed on the basic elements of ecotourism: it contributes to conservation of biodiversity, sustains the well being of local people, is delivered primarily to small groups by small-scale businesses, involves responsible action on the part of tourists and the tourism industry, stresses local participation, ownership and business opportunities, particularly for rural people.

Some countries, companies and destinations have social and environmental policies and programs, while others do not. This has led to confusion worldwide about the meaning of ecotourism as it is applied in the marketplace. Ecotourism fits into the larger tourism marketplace. Both adventure tourism and ecotourism are components of nature tourism, while ecotourism has stronger links to rural and cultural tourism than to adventure tourism. In ecotourism the prime motivation is generally the observation and appreciation of natural features and related assets, whereas in adventure tourism it is physical exercise and challenging situations in natural environments.

From a functional point of view, ecotourism is mostly individual or small-scale tourism (tour group up to 25, and hotels with fewer than 100 beds) that is operated by small- and medium-sized companies in natural areas. It concentrates on leading and accommodating small groups in natural areas in an educational manner through interpretative and local specialist guides.


Tourism in the European Monetary Union

The European Commission, recognizing the important role of tourism in the European economy, has been increasingly involved in tourism since the early 1980s, in co-operation with the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee of the Regions.

It has been estimated that tourism directly employs around nine million people in the European Union, representing roughly 6% of total employment and of GDP, and 30% of total external trade services. It also indirectly creates millions of jobs in connected services. Together with employment and GDP indicated in other sectors, such as transport or distributive trade, these figures rise up 20 million jobs and to roughly 12% of GDP. Some sources estimate that travel and tourism jobs will increase by 2 million during the next 10 years.

In structural terms, small and medium-sized tourism enterprises (SMEs) play a vital role. European tourism is largely an SME-dominated sector, with over 99% of firms employing fewer than 250 individuals. These contribute significantly to Member States’ GDP. In 1997, tourism SMEs represented 7.4% of total SMEs in Europe, 94.2% of which were enterprises employing fewer than 10 persons. 6.5% of the total turnover of European SMEs is generated by tourism SMEs.

Another essential issue for tourism is the introduction of the euro. On January 1, 1999, 12 countries of the European Union adopted the euro as their official currency, thus creating a monetary zone of 291 million inhabitants. The tourism sector is expecting to benefit strongly from the euro, as it will increase travel, reduce operating costs and foster investments.

The introduction of the Euro and the implementation of a single European monetary policy are one of the greatest challenges in European history. By introducing the euro, the European Union will become the world’s largest monetary union with a GDP of approximately 8,440 billion USD.

It will facilitate travel within the European Union for tourists; the elimination of foreign exchange risk, cheaper cross-border transactions costs and the transparency of prices within the euro zone all contribute to reduce the cost of travelling and hence provide a positive impact on the industry. The larger euro area will render Europe more attractive to visitors from countries outside the European Union and, in particular, those who visit several countries during the same trip. They will no longer have to handle with several currencies, they will be able to immediately compare prices between countries, and will no longer have to deal with the problem of leftover cash.

Increased transparency within the Euro zone will strengthen competition. As these changes will become most visible in international activities, they are particularly relevant for tourism.

Since prices are much easier comparable in one single currency, the Euro results in more competitive travel in tourism markets, with obvious consequences for the prices and quality of the tourism services. For overseas markets, the Euro will make Europe an easier destination and strengthen its role as an “umbrella” for promotion and marketing activities, maintaining the tendency that tourists from these areas come mainly to Europe and not to individual countries. However, the fact that not all EU member states are also members of the Euro zone may create confusion, so the European tourism sector must put special emphasis on the explanation of the existing differences.

We are all hoping for the United Kingdom to join the EMU as soon as possible, although former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is still saying that the euro was and is fatally flawed and that her country should never join it. If you have a single currency, you give up your independence, you give up your sovereignty, and “that we must never do”.

But the single currency has already been introduced into the UK through the back door, and lately even through he front door. The European currency is being accepted not only by great manufacturers, but also by small retailers in the streets of London. Although the Euro is still an exotic and rarely-spotted curiosity that many Britons have not yet seen, many retailers have accepted the fact that this is a massive currency and therefore needs to be used, tourists need to be able to spend it in Britain. Londoners are not going to say “no” to tourists, and tourism in London is huge. Euro-enthusiasts are delighted that shops are accepting Euros because they believe that this will help shift the public opinion.

There must certainly be lots of companies who have accepted a policy of “wait and see” and, as soon as they detect a demand, will start accepting Euros. The states in Western Europe that still remain outside the Union, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are Euro-enthusiasts, and as for

Sweden and Denmark, let’s keep our fingers crossed, hoping they will realize they cannot afford not to join!


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Tourism and environment