So the UN has declared 2017 the year of sustainable tourism for development. Tourism is responsible for 10% of the world’s GDP and has huge developmental potential for countries with limited exports but are rich in cultural and environmental experiences. 2015 saw 1.2 billion international travellers, it is time to take this growth seriously, ensuring it has positive rather than negative impacts.
93% of corals have been impacted by abnormally warm waters. Coral bleaching has spread around the globe, devastating reef mortality and resulting in a sense of urgency amongst some tourists. A feeling of ‘I have to get there before its too late!’ is sweeping across many travellers. This has created a form of tourism that I have come to loathe the most, ‘last-chance Tourism’. It suggests a feeling of hopelessness, that we are too late and nothing can be done. Conservation soon gets replaced by an acceptance of demise and we extract as much as we can before it disappears. This needs to change and fast!
I am still unsure whether holiday companies have grasped the idea that responsible tourism is essential if they are going to keep their heads above the water. Profitability is always the best way to convince holiday companies that responsible tourism is a sensible addition to their products. For example, it provides a competitive advantage and is making its way into holiday itineraries. However, responsible tourism isn’t essential for business but rather an additional cost or a bit of a pain (so much so that many pay other companies to increase their responsible tourism credentials through tokenistic schemes like carbon offsetting) and it is also a lot of extra work for little return. So how do we make responsible travel indispensable?