Un blog de Universitat Politècnica de Valéncia, Campus de Gandia.

The real challenges facing the tourism industry that no one is talking about

The tourism industry has already recovered and exceeded pre-pandemic figures. According to a report presented by the World Tourism Organization, a United Nations agency, this recovery is largely due to the increase in global air connectivity.

It seems doubly ironic since, on the one hand, hypermobility is the main factor behind the spread of the virus and, on the other hand, transportation is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions that we should be drastically reducing, especially air transport, Thus, it is precisely the tourism industry that is most affected by the effects of climate change.

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the tourism industry, and it must tackle it decisively. The principle challenge falls within the ambit of environmental sustainability, although also in the ambit of economic sustainability, given the effects of climate change on a country like Spain, where the tourism sector accounts for  almost 13%  of the GDP. These effects include a potential decrease in private sector profits, and above all, an increase in public sectoe spending to contend with these impacts.

Climate change obliges us to address issues such as increased temperatures (just remember the 25 °C “winter” that we are experiencing in Valencia), the availability of drinking water during the peak tourist season, lack of snow on ski resorts, rising sea levels or stronger and more frequent storms on over-built coasts with tourist infrastructure that must be repeatedly rebuilt, are some examples of how climate change affects and will increasingly affect the tourism industry.

There are two strategies available to combat its effects: adaptation and mitigation. Neither of the two is implemented decisively in tourism strategies, save minor advances in water consumption, waste sorting or the rental of EVs instead of fuel-powered vehicles. All of these are minor actions that do not come close to addressing the true scale and scope of the challenge.

The third dimension of sustainability, the social dimension, is where we face another important challenge in the tourism sector that no one seems to be addressing. We have cities that are rapidly losing their identities and authenticity and turning into theme parks, where housing costs have gone up so much that residents are often outpriced and displaced. We have workers living at the poverty threshold ,while multinational tourism companies with headquarters in tax havens export their billions in profits elsewhere. There are serious health impacts from ever increasing cruise ship, air plane and motor vehicle emissions, leading to an increase in mortality and complex multimorbidity.

These are global problems, but as an eminently global industry, the tourism industry can contribute significantly to finding solutions if they are tackled head on.  The academic world is providing tools and methodologies to decision-making bodies to address these challenges, while administrative bodies are outlining their intentions through plans and strategies, although more forceful implementation is required in the current context.

Pau Alonso-M. Fernández

Research Professor at  Campus de Gandia.

PEGASO Research Center in Architecture, Heritage and Management for Sustainable Development.


Source: UPV Innovation Newsletter

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