Clayton, A. and Hayle, C. (2009), "Summary: Is tourism part of the problem – or part of the solution?", Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Vol. 1 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/whatt.2009.40801cab.002Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Summary: Is tourism part of the problem – or part of the solution?
Article Type: Summary From: Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Volume 1, Issue 3
This theme issue has looked at the role of the travel and tourism industry in climate change, and at the implications of climate change for the travel and tourism industry. We have focused on the Caribbean for the reasons set out at the beginning, and explored in detail in this issue.
It is the most tourism-dependent region in the world.
The travel involved in getting there adds a significant amount of carbon to the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change.
The region is vulnerable to many of the effects of climate change, which are likely to include sea level rise, saltwater intrusion, freshwater shortages, hurricanes, storm surges, flooding and other impacts.
The Caribbean tourism industry is particularly vulnerable to climate change; the product largely involves sea, sun and sand tourism, which means that most of the essential infrastructure is located at or near the shoreline, in areas that will be vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge.
The nations of the Caribbean are therefore facing a serious dilemma. There is no realistic possibility of the Caribbean surviving without the tourism industry, at least for the foreseeable future, as other sectors, such as traditional agriculture, continue to decline. However, climate change presents a real threat, not just to the industry, but to the island nations themselves. The issue, then, is how the travel and tourism industry can change from being part of the problem to being part of the solution.
First, the situation is not hopeless. It is true that there has been little net progress to date. Many governments have failed to meet their own targets for carbon emission reductions, such reductions are there have been easily outpaced by increased emissions from countries such as China, and it is hard to justify the thousands of meetings that have been held to discuss the problem, as global emissions of carbon are still rising.
However, there are now a wide range of new technological solutions in development. Far more energy-efficient lighting and appliances, zero-carbon buildings, low-carbon energy sources, vehicles that run on electric motors, hydrogen or biofuels, and a range of similar ideas are all now attainable, although many of them are still at the prototype stage. The need now is to create the market conditions that will accelerate the development of these new solutions, and make them widely available at affordable prices.
This indicates one obvious role for the tourism industry, which is a major part of almost every economy and the core of some, including those in the Caribbean. The industry is, in many countries, the biggest consumer, the largest customer, the main constructor, the largest employer, the biggest building operator, and drives the procurement of many ancillary goods and services. This puts the industry in a uniquely powerful position. If the industry specifies that only the most energy and resource-efficient goods and services will be acceptable from now on, the rest of the economy will be relatively rapidly transformed.
Second, role for the industry will be in the steps that it takes to ensure the survival of its own customers, in building hotels with a set-back from the sea, with roofs and windows that can withstand category 5 hurricanes, protecting reefs and encouraging reef regeneration.
Finally, a role for the travel and tourism industry, which has significant political influence in many countries, would be to encourage its host governments to implement some of the policy measures described in this theme issue.
If the industry can make these three positive contributions, it would help to ensure its own survival, provide a profound public service to many nations, and perhaps, help to keep the world safe for humanity.
Anthony Clayton and Carolyn HayleTheme Editors