Tourism has always been – from a historical perspective – a societal response to the human need for wellbeing and personal development, through interaction with other people and the environment.
Globally, demand for tourism and recreation opportunities has grown steadily over the last decades and tourism development, beyond its contribution to national economies, is nowadays a major driving force that impacts essential environmental assets (air, water, biodiversity, soil, land), both in tourist destinations (locally) and on a global scale.
Particularly, major tourist destinations are faced with challenges related to water supply, waste and waste water generation and management, which may exceed, in some cases, the carrying capacity of the territories. Also, land take and soil sealing, air and noise pollution from local means of transport, as well as visual pollution by the ever-expanding built-up areas, represent other – quite common – traceable consequences of tourism development.
Tourism is indeed one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economic sectors, responsible for 9% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and for the creation of 1 in 11 jobs worldwide. Internationally fourth behind fuels, chemicals and food and, at 6% of all global exports, higher than automobiles, tourism, more than any other sector, is responsible for the movement of people across the globe.
Sustainability in tourism
However, a damaged environment could undermine tourism in the future, because tourism needs a clean and attractive environment. Therefore, it is necessary to monitor and measure the impact of tourism on the environment and implement tourism-related policies to ensure greater sustainability of the sector.
When we look at tourism, we immediately realize it is a multi-faceted phenomenon: tourism as a “sociological/cultural” process that relies heavily on high-quality landscape and environment, and tourism as an industry made of different sub-sectors depending on resource use.
Thus, as long as the relationship between tourism-related industries and the attractive natural and cultural features of the landscape is maintained such that the former don’t harm the latter, then the future of tourism as a healthy and resilient socio-economic sector is not undermined. This is the principle behind sustainable management – a key element in achieving the sustainability of the tourism sector.
Tourism is an intense resource use sector globally
Evidence based global estimates show that resource use and emissions by the tourism sector will double over the next 20–40 years with regard to land, fresh water, energy, and food consumption. They suggest that sustainability in tourism is to be addressed within the current context of the scientific and political debate on planetary boundaries.
Academics and scientists argue that the sector growth is so paramount that even if relevant resource efficiency gains were to be achieved in accommodation and transport, these gains would be outpaced by the higher number of other factors. Among these: international tourism arrivals, the increase in the kilometers per passenger travelled and the growing rate of resource use by a limited but consistent share of up-market tourism.
Such an increase would mean that the sustainability of the sector on a global scale would only being possible if absolute resource use was decoupled from the increasing number of tourists, among other things. So, on the light of this challenging perspective about the future of global tourism, where to start from for the improvement of its environmental performance?
Responses to the environmental impacts of tourism
Besides monitoring and reporting, that is a fundamental precondition for paving the way towards sustainability of tourism, the municipalities that strive for maintaining their tourism attractiveness without jeopardizing their social and territorial capital may adopt ad hoc tourism strategies consistent to the management and planning strategies of the cities.
These strategies set objectives and actions in accommodation and mobility, in the production and consumption of goods and services, including food and beverage. They include response to waste generation and management to protect and preserve life on land, life below water and public health. They should also be able to prevent the so-called “over-tourism” phenomenon, already negatively affecting European cities such as Barcelona and Venice.
Over-tourism in Copenhagen
We at GBT have recently noticed a rear up of the tourist presence also in the historical core of Copenhagen. Indeed if we look at the official data recorded by Wonderful Copenhagen, the municipal destination management organization, this impression of ours is confirmed by the following figures: number of visitors grew by 74 percent between 2008 and 2018, with the city recording 8.8m guests in 2018 (whereas the population of Denmark is scarcely 6 million people!). Apparently, this figure does not include the 1.9m who used the flat-sharing app AirBnB, while it is expected to double to 16m by 2030!
Thus, the city has recently adopted a strategy on sustainable tourism that align itself to the contents of the United Nations Global Agenda 2030 for the sustainable development, adopted by all Countries in 2015, framing the tourism sector as tool to contribute to achieve some of the objectives the Agenda builds upon. Also, the strategy aims at assimilating visitors and tourists to temporary locals that can appreciate and enjoy the localhood, the benefits and services that enhance the quality of life for all people finding themselves in the city, no matter for how long time.
To conclude…deambulando solvitur, it is solved by walking!! The Ancient Romans would have advised as to lower at least the negative environmental impacts of tourism-related transport and mobility. Not only would we at GBT say gladly and proudly “walking” but also “biking”! In fact, to contribute to a more sustainable tourist presence in Copenhagen, join one of tours to get also the chance to see the many valuable sustainable initiatives implemented in the Danish capital city. Are you interested in a Green Bike Tours, please visit: www.greenbiketours.dk