Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter December 2017

WTTC launches study into tourism and overcrowding


WTTC and McKinsey&Company have this month launched a report into the most current topic affecting the sustainability of the travel industry - tourism overcrowding. Titled Coping with Success - Managing Overcrowding in Tourism Destinations, it looks to provide a toolkit offering context, best practices, and tactics to consider that can help destination leaders and planners develop their own approaches. Drawing on examples from across the world, some as well known as Barcelona, others, such as the Indian city of Jaisalmer less so, it highlights what it considers as five key negative impacts from overcrowding. These are: Alienated local residents, degraded tourist experience, overloaded infrastructure, damage to nature, and threats to culture & heritage.

Having outlined the challenges, the report seeks to develop ways to measure a city’s susceptibility to the problems of overcrowding. To achieve this, the researchers combined existing data on sustainability in destinations (namely the European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS), the Green Destinations Standard and the Global Destination Sustainability Index), with information sourced from Tripadvisor reviews so as to provide a gauge of visitor sentiment. The report then explores the picture this data conveys across four very different cities: Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Chongqing, and New York City.

The third section of the report draws together examples of best practice from destinations around the world. The researchers advised a range of approaches that destination managers should adopt. First, they should build a comprehensive fact base and update it regularly. For example, New Zealand conducts a biannual Mood of the Nation survey, which has found that the percentage who worry that “international visitors put too much pressure” on the country increased from 18 percent in December 2016 to 35 percent in March 2017. Second, they should establish a sustainable growth strategy through rigorous, long-term planning. Since 2015, Jamaica has developed a strategy known as the Community Tourism Vision which looks to shift the Caribbean island away from being a “sun, sea, and sand” destination to one focussed on “community tourism” that offers visitors opportunities to interact with the country’s culture and heritage and promotes agriculture, culture, and local businesses. Third, it is essential to involve all sections of society, be they commercial, public, or social. Iceland has set up a Tourism Task Force with four members from the private sector, four cabinet ministers, and two members from local government on the board. And finally, destinations need to find new and innovative sources of funding, whether this is like Rotterdam’s use of crowdfunding to build a new bridge, or Botswana’s bed levy that is spent on staff hospitality training. 

The report’s final section explores what destinations can, and should do to respond to overcrowding, laying out five key steps, again backed up by a range of case studies from around the world. The report advises that destinations take a combination of these five steps, depending on the specifics of the local situation: Smooth visitors over time, Spread visitors across sites, Adjust pricing to balance supply and demand, Regulate accommodation supply, and Limit access and activities.  

The report, however, doesn’t seek to be the end of the issue, but rather to begin a conversation on a solid, data-based, footing. As WTTC CEO Gloria Guevara and McKinsey&Company’s Senior Partner Alex Dichter explain in the foreword: “To solve this challenge, leaders must be willing to identify and address the barriers (including beliefs, norms, and structures) that are holding us back from effectively managing overcrowding. And they must look for ways to compromise: when overcrowding goes too far, the repercussions are difficult to reverse.”



Earlier in 2017 WTTC published a report on tourism and travel’s impact on several cities around the world. In the report, London’s Travel & Tourism sector, which is the second largest in Europe and number 11 in the world, was found to generate €15 billion (£12.3 billion) of GDP and 228,000 jobs and, accounting for 18.6% of the UK’s total Travel & Tourism GDP.

London is one of the greenest cities of its size in the world, with 1/5th of the area of Greater London designated as a public park. A groundbreaking study published in November 2017 shows - for the first time - the economic value of health benefits that Londoners get from the capital's public parks and green spaces. It found that London’s public parks have a gross asset value in excess of £91 billion, and  that for every £1 spent by local authorities and their partners on maintaining these public parks, Londoners enjoy at least £27 in value.

London is also looking to address its role in climate change. Most of London’s emissions (about 80 per cent) come from burning fossil fuels to power and heat buildings, with the rest from transport. The city has a target to reduce London’s carbon dioxide emissions by 60% of their 1990 level by 2025. 

A city of London’s size also creates huge volumes of waste - £1.6 billion in avoidable food waste is thrown away by London households every year. The London Waste and Recycling Board is piloting London’s transition to a circular economy that designs waste out of the system, with the potential to save the UK’s capital £5n a year in waste management costs by 2050.  An initial report, ‘Towards a circular economy – context and opportunities’, has been published.

Against this backdrop, in September 2017 the Mayor of London and launched The Tourism Vision for London, which plans for more than 40 million people to visit the city each year by 2025, an increase of 30 per cent on the 31.2 million visitors who came to the capital in 2016. To ensure the sustainability of these increases, the city is looking to adopt various approaches, such as spending more on pre-visit promotion to boost numbers travelling in off-peak periods and invest in information and the visitor experience to allow people to explore more of the city.

G Adventures publishes free guidelines for responsible travel with indigenous people 


The tour operator G Adventures, a finalist in the 2017 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, has published a new set of comprehensive guidelines for companies working or traveling with Indigenous groups. Produced in collaboration with The George Washington University’s International Institute of Tourism Studies, the guidelines are intended to help travel companies that work or intend to work with indigenous people, while helping affected communities more directly benefit from responsible and culturally sensitive tourism.

To create the free and open source resource, which comprises 17 guidelines designed to support all aspects of developing and operating tourism with indigenous communities, G Adventures first reviewed the existing literature and conducted primary surveys with communities and travelers. This was then followed with inputs from an expert panel including the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance, Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, Community Based Tourism Institute, and Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda.

“As part of our commitment to responsible travel we felt it was important to ensure that we are managing all of those interactions using global good practices,” Jamie Sweeting told WTTC. “ While lots of work has been done on guidance for indigenous communities getting involved in tourism we could not find good guidance for travel companies working with indigenous people - hence we partnered with The George Washington University and sought advice from leading experts in the field to draft the guidelines.” G Adventures now plans to use the guidelines to fully audit all its tours, suppliers, and communication materials - with the aim of creating a Indigenous Tourism Policy later in 2018.

The 23-page PDF - Indigenous People and The Travel Industry: Global Good Practice Guidelines can be downloaded for free.

American Hotel & Lodging Association releases results of food waste pilot and creates toolkit

Hotel kitchen

The World Wildlife Fund and the American Hotel & Lodging Association, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, have released the results from a set of pilot projects aimed at demonstrating innovative strategies for reducing food waste in the hotel industry. The partners have now created a toolkit based on the result and designed to help hotels reduce food waste.

For the project, ten US-based hotel properties participated in 12 weeks of demonstration projects, trialling a range of waste reduction strategies, including low-waste menu planning, staff training and education, and customer engagement. Participants came from Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and Marriott International, as well as Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, Sage Hospitality, and Terranea Resort. 

On average, the properties saw food waste reduce by at least 10 percent. Some participants also saw food costs reduce by around three percent.  “This project demonstrated that hotel staff can establish new approaches to cut food waste, which in turn reduces food preparation and disposal costs,” said Pete Pearson, Director of Food Waste at the World Wildlife Fund. “Collaboration and leadership by sectors like the hospitality industry will allow us to implement prevention strategies and solve problems faster.”

Following the pilot, a toolkit has been released, which provides an easy-to-use guide containing key findings from the study, guiding principles, sample materials, case studies, video demonstrations and a set of next steps to tackle food waste in the hotel industry. It can be downloaded at

Tourism businesses on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula pledge to go plastic free

Beach plastic

Last month, the Chamber of Tourism of Osa (CATUOSA), in the Osa Peninsula region in southern Costa Rica, committed to no longer use single-use plastic, such as food containers, bags, coffee cups and straws. In their place, supporting businesses will substitute biodegradable items made from bamboo, cloth, and other sustainably produced materials. “Since our inception we have been committed to the development of a sustainable tourism activity in the region,” said president of CATUOSA, Luis Centeno, during the declaration of Osa as a plastic-free area.  “To transform this vision into concrete reality, we decided to create awareness among our associates and the Osa community in general about the ecological threat created by single-use plastics.” 

Earlier this year, Costa Rica’s government pledged to ban single-use disposable plastic in the country so as to fight plastic marine debris, with each day, approximately 800 tons of waste ending up in the country’s rivers and on its beaches. According to the government, by 2021, at least 80 percent of the country’s public agencies, municipalities and businesses must have moved away from single use plastics.

CREST annual report on sustainable tourism focusses on tourism and SDGs


Each year, the Center for Responsible Tourism (CREST) publishes ‘The Case for
Responsible Travel’, in which it gathers together trends & statistics supporting the development of a more sustainable tourism industry. For its 2017 edition, the report is structured around the UNWTO's five pillars of the UN's International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. These are: inclusive and sustainable economic growth; social inclusiveness, employment, and poverty reduction; resource efficiency, environmental protection, and climate change adaptation and mitigation; respect for cultural values, diversity, and heritage; and mutual understanding, peace and security. 

Prepared in collaboration with 25 leading tourism organizations and institutions, the report highlights the growing role of sustainable tourism. In their executive summary, CREST’s authors urge governments to stop measuring success primarily by increased arrival numbers. Instead, they say, it should be measured in ”increased retention of tourism revenue and the equitable distribution of tourism earnings to better the economic, social, and environmental conditions of a destination.”

The report can be downloaded for free here.

Winners and finalists of the UNWTO Awards announced

UNWTO Awards

The UNWTO has announces the winners of the Ulysses Prize and the Ethics Award, as well as the 14 finalists for the UNWTO Awards for Innovation in Tourism. Valene L Smith has won the Ulysses Prize for Excellence in the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge in Tourism. She is Professor Emeritus and Research Professor at the California State University, and author of the 1977 book Hosts and Guests. Spanish tour company Europa Mundo Vacaciones has won the Ethics Award for its initiative “Europa Mundo Foundation”, which it created In 2011.

14 Project finalists were also announced for the UNWTO Awards for Innovation in Tourism. They are: MiBarrio, Argentina; Grottoes World Cultural Heritage Park, China; Tourism training talent (TTT), Turismo de Portugal, Portugal; Great Plains Conservation: Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust, India; Valle dei Cavalieri, Italy; Balesin Island Club, Philippines; The Sumba Hospitality Foundation, Indonesia;, Indonesia; IT.A.CÀ – Migrants and Travelers, Festival of Responsible Tourism, Italy; Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda, Mexico; EarthCheck, Australia, the Croatian National Tourism Board; and SEGITTUR, Spain. The awards ceremony will be held at the annual FITUR trade fair, in Madrid in January 2018. 

Written and edited by Jeremy Smith

Tourism for Tomorrow in the news: A selection of news articles from last month