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Using “Trends & Statistics” to Advance Sustainability

Guest Contribution by: Rich Shea, Director of Communications at CREST.

Every year, the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), collaborating with leading tourism organizations, including Sustainable Travel International, publishes what’s come to be known, shorthand, as “Trends & Statistics.” This report is a compilation of facts, quotations, data, and resources designed to advance the practice of responsible travel worldwide. Because the United Nations named 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, we modeled this year’s content on the five “pillars” the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) created for the international year. Those pillars, or ways in which sustainable tourism facilitates a destination’s development, are:

  • Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
  • Social inclusiveness, employment, and poverty reduction
  • Resource efficiency, environmental protection, and climate change adaptation and mitigation
  • Cultural values, diversity, and heritage
  • Mutual understanding, peace, and security

The international year, also known as IY2017, is partly a recognition of how far the sustainable tourism industry has come in the last 15 to 20 years. But it’s also an urgent appeal to practitioners to do a better job of addressing a range of tourism-related challenges.

For example, some of the world’s most popular destinations—Barcelona, Venice, the beaches of Thailand—are overrun with tourists, putting a strain on resources, cultural sites, the environment, and residents. And, as we witnessed in the Caribbean this hurricane season, climate change is producing storms of greater intensity. Still, coastal tourism largely continues to build—and rebuild—exactly as it has in the past. At the same time, poor planning and regulation in many countries enable relatively few to profit from the travel industry, while the residents of host communities remain impoverished.

It is, therefore, incumbent upon those playing vital roles in tourism—including businesses, NGOs, academics, development agencies, the media, and travelers—to advance sustainable practices. This is especially true of governments. Only they can rein in runaway tourism—by not continuing to measure success by increased arrival numbers. Instead, they should measure the retention of tourism revenue and the equitable distribution of tourism earnings to better the economic, social, and environmental conditions of a destination.

This year’s “Trends & Statistics” approaches these challenges one UNWTO pillar, or key sustainable development tool, at a time. And it does so via four sub-categories: what the experts say about the tool, followed by how consumers, businesses, and destinations themselves make use of it. We at CREST encourage you to peruse the entire document, which is comprehensive in its coverage and useful to all players in the sustainable tourism industry.

Header image: A visitor gets a lesson at a handicraft cooperative in Chihuahua, Mexico / Credit: Mauricio Miramontes
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