Which is a lot easier said than done.
The escalating numbers of international tourists and their fast-expanding footfall strains the delicate balance between helping to sustain a tourist destination, and simply destroying it. Over the last fifty years international tourism numbers have risen from 200 million a year to over 1.3 billion. And this is only the beginning, as the number is set to double in the next twenty years.
This balancing act has been significantly highlighted by differing responses from various destinations recently. Over-burdened European destinations, such as Venice, Dubrovnik and Barcelona have experienced demonstrations and ill-concealed hostility to tourists. In contrast, the Caribbean islands, decimated by the recent hurricane season, are desperately encouraging tourists to visit as quickly as possible.
Equally, tourists themselves are having to juggle their precious holiday plans as the likes of Ryan Air cancel 50 flights a day, weather wreaks havoc across Asia, Africa and the Americas, and the ‘battle of haircuts’, between monsieurs Trump and Kim Jong-un, threatens everyone, everywhere.
Two years ago I reflected on World Tourism Day’s 2015 strapline ‘One Billion Tourists, One Billion Opportunities’ with a particular emphasis on how appropriate that moment was for the continent and people of Africa.
This week I would like to emphasise how essential it is to make a commitment to this year’s World Tourism Day strapline of ‘Sustainable Tourism – a Tool for Development’. The industry’s potential to act as a ‘force for good’ can only work with the constant engagement of its many stakeholders.
At Nomadic Thoughts, while advising, planning and arranging client holidays, we endeavour to promote and practise the five pillars of sustainable development as much as possible:
- Economic: yielding inclusive growth
- Social: bringing decent jobs and empowering communities
- Environmental: preserving and enriching the environment and addressing climate change
- Cultural: celebrating and preserving diversity, identity, and tangible and intangible culture
- Peace: as an essential prerequisite for development and progress
We are fully aware of, and take very seriously, our responsibility in performing a bridging role between all stakeholders, which, when implemented successfully, can be positive, powerful and life-changing.
I recently experienced two examples of the literally life-changing effect of tourism. Firstly, when the two rickshaw drivers I interviewed and filmed in Fort Cochin explained that their children were attending local universities, thanks to their income, 90% of which was provided by visiting tourists.
Secondly, when a client struggling to adjust after their partner had died, told me that their recent trip had given them the confidence to carry on.