Sustainability chief challenges industry to manage the impact of tourism. Lucy Huxley and Ian Taylor report
PwC joined Tui and the Travel Foundation in publishing the first-ever study into the total impact of tourism in a destination in July.
Presenting the findings at a Travel Weekly Business Lunch, PwC global sustainability leader Malcolm Preston challenged the sector, saying: “We always talk about the industry being a force for good, so prove it. Manage the impact and prove you are a force for good, and not the opposite.”
The study deployed PwC’s Total Impact Measurement and Management (Timm) methodology at eight Tui Group hotels in Cyprus in a joint project with the Travel Foundation, studying their impact over a year.
It looked not just at the impacts on the local economy and environment but also at the social effects. The results suggest tourism’s positive impact on destinations for outweighs the negative effects.
Preston told the industry audience: “If this methodology can influence the long-term sustainability of destinations then that is brilliant. Can I quantify the impact exactly now? No.
But this [methodology] can be translated into how companies manage their supply chains and in a number of years they will be able to look at the financial impact that has had.”
He said: “This study is extremely powerful. It’s about measuring and monetising. How accurate it is depends on the data. We’re using the best available data out there. Some of it is very advanced – the economic data is established – but a lot of data isn’t that advanced [yet] and the social data is the least established.”
However, he said: “The key point is to understand how huge the impact of tourism is, and the inter-dependencies.”
Preston said the extent to which positive outcomes had outweighed the negative when monetary values were attached had surprised all involved in the study. He explained: “We didn’t like to second-guess [the results], but we felt intuitively the impact was going to be big. Yet we were all surprised by how big the economic impact was.”
The Timm study calculated an average economic impact of €59 per customer per night and an additional tax impact of €25. The total environmental cost was put at €4 per night.
Preston asked: “How would we widen this study? We could look at the full lifecycle of a hotel rather than just a single year – from before a hotel was built, through construction and once it’s open – and we could look at how what happens in one year accumulates over multiple years.”
Travel Foundation trustee Harold Goodwin, professor of responsible tourism at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “This needs to become a regular management tool for destinations and for managers and business owners to think about their business strategies.”
Preston said: “I would love it to become standard across travel companies. Governments have a common language and a set of targets [in this area], but the private sector has not caught up.
“To say it could be rolled out in the next decade is fanciful, but if we can get companies – especially big ones – thinking and talking about it, it would be a great start. Success to me is if the industry takes this on.”
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