This week is the sixth anniversary of my blog and I would like to mark it with my list of what I believe are the six most significant tourism issues of today.
The responsibilities of providing a sustainable environment for all stakeholders dominates the debate. The industry grows year on year: international tourist arrivals were up 4% this year for the seventh year in a row, taking the figure to a staggering 1.2bn.
With a particular focus on world leaders’ 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, supporting mankind’s development until 2030, I passionately believe that tourism is uniquely placed to make a lasting impact on 21st century development. The industry’s ability to bring together people from different creeds and cultures means that a direct line of friendship, peace and reconciliation can powerfully assist in the promotion of inter-cultural understanding, socio-economic progress and environmental sustainability.
- (1) Gender equality
As the western world reflects on the position of women in society, with disgraced male public figures falling like over-ripe fruit and the #MeToo campaign gathering pace, it should not be forgotten that in most regions around the world, women make up the significant majority of the tourism workforce.
The challenge however, is in spreading the realisation that they tend to occupy the lowest paid and lower status employment positions. In particular, women often provide an enormous amount of unpaid work in family tourism enterprises.
- (2) Peace and Security
As many of the world’s social media platforms appear to be haunted by trolls and distant darker political forces, the power of face-to-face communication has never been so important.
The hope is that while bigots, racists and terrorists promote their brand of negativity online, the fact that so many people travel to different countries in real time is a powerful force for good. For example, the new surge in Chinese people travelling means a nation whose previous default-mode was fear of the outside world, is now beginning to embrace other world cultures on a grand scale. Their international tourism expenditure, at US$ 261bn, is double that of the second largest spender, the USA at US$ 122bn.
- (3) Cultural preservation
Across the globe, tourism is one of the main supporters of local culture. In particular youth and female sectors are encouraged to learn, perform and share aspects of their culture with visiting tourists. Whether through performing arts, sport, cooking or traditional medicine, the growth in authentic activity tourism is enriching local culture, making it, in many destinations, stronger and more identifiable.
- (4) Freedom of movement
Thirty years ago, when I set up Nomadic Thoughts, many people around the world were forbidden to travel within their own countries, let alone abroad. Today is very different. Repressive political systems no longer stop people in Latin America, Africa, eastern Europe or parts of Asia from travelling.
In contrast, 20% of the world’s population can now visit a destination without a visa (up 18% in just one year). Some 15% can obtain visas on arrival, and 58% of the world’s population is allowed to enter a country by obtaining a visa prior to departure.
- (5) Environment protection
Although there are many success stories, particularly evident in the positive impact tourism has on protecting wildlife and their natural environment, it must be admitted that the impact of the cruise industry, airline industry and overall tourism on fragile local environments requires constant vigilance.
As the sharing-economy further expands and industry regulations diminish, anti-tourist demonstrations, recently seen in Venice and Barcelona, may well become the norm in other destinations.
- (6) Economic Growth
Tourism is a seemingly ever-expanding industry, predicted to have 1.8bn international tourists a year by 2030. France is the world leader in international arrivals, with 84.5m visitors a year. With 5% growth in advanced economies and 2% growth in emerging economies, the travel industry provides 10% of the world’s jobs and global GDP; US$ 1.5trn in exports (including 7% of world exports and 30% of services exports); as well as significantly contributing to grass-roots economies, in particular in Africa, Asia and the South Pacific.