A leader of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) delivered a withering assessment of tourism’s efforts on sustainability yesterday.
Arab Hoballah, head of sustainable consumption and production at UNEP, told the World Tourism Forum (WTF) in Lucerne: “Generally, tourism is a wasteful activity in water, energy and food.
“When you visit destinations you frequently see pollution and destruction and the impact on heritage. Most of the benefits of tourism go, at best, to the national level, not the local level.”
Hoballah said: “The trends are negative. Resource use is intensifying, biodiversity loss is increasing.
“We are losing billions in energy because companies don’t manage buildings. We could save 30% of energy, in some cases 50%, if we did this.
“Around the Mediterranean 30%-60% of water is lost through mismanagement. When more water is needed developers go to new sources, they don’t manage what they have.”
He warned: “Many poor countries that depend on tourism will collapse if they don’t protect their country’s resources.
Hoballah suggested sustainable-tourism organisations often “do work that does not meet a country’s priorities”. But he said government neglect of the sector was a bigger problem.
He told the WTF: “France is the country of tourism, receiving the most visitors in the world, yet the ministry of tourism is almost insignificant. It is not integrated with the government.
“The government policy-paper frameworks for tourism do not exist except for a few island nations that depend on tourism – and policy is from one side: local communities are not involved.”
Hoballah told the forum: “In 20-30 years there will be three billion more middle class consumers – new tourists from Indonesia, China, Brazil.
“There will be demand for resources, hotels, tourism services. We will need more hotels, more energy, more water, more food, more transport. If it is business as usual, we can’t afford that.”
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