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RT News: Latest Developments in Responsible Tourism 06/2023

July 11, 2023
Harold Goodwin
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The 2022 Responsible Tourism Charter points out that responsibility drives sustainability, lists the major issues which need to be addressed, and asserts the importance of transparent reporting is essential to demonstrating what is being achieved and avoiding greenwashing.

  1. Overtourism, a Tragedy of the Commons 
  2. Greenwashing
  3. Airbnb  
  4. Greener Hotels?
  5. Cruise Lines 
  6. Nature Positive Tourism  
  7. Tourism Taxes 
  8. Aviation 
  9. Climate Change 
  10. Miscellany

1. Overtourism, a Tragedy of the Commons
There is a symbiotic relationship between the travel and tourism service providers and the destinations. Too often, the relationship is one of parasitism – the tourist and tourism service providers benefit at the expense of the other species, the hosts. Responsible Tourism aspires to develop mutualism where both hosts and guests benefit, and the host is not harmed.
Overtourism, parasitism and the Tragedy of the Commons

  • Using  Holidu has used 2019 data on visitor numbers to calculate the number of tourists per head of population.

  • Basque locals lament the ‘disastrous’ impact of Game of Thrones fame Euronews
  • Overloaded by Airbnbs and mass tourism, Rome fears its historic centre will be emptied out of locals Eric Reguly in The Globe and Mail
  • The tourist tidal wave that’s flattening Europe’s cities The Week
  • Scotland  dispersal, education and awareness, Robin McKelvie writes in The National,  "we might think places are remote or romantic but real people live real lives there.  So respect becomes key. I often describe it as imagining a tourist came into your local pub, shop or parked in your street. How would you want them to behave?" "Community tourism network SCOTO is taking things a step further encouraging us all to be “temporary locals”. We show respect and put money directly into local communities; in return we savour richer, more engaged experiences."
  • Be Local: "Be inspired to embrace the local community spirit on your travels and to give something simple back that will make the community an even better place to live, work and visit. Everyone's a winner when you become a temporary local.
  • Seville is requiring Airbnbs and other short-term rental apartments to install noise meters to alert owners if guests in their property are making too much noise.
  • Lanzarote in the Canaries has declared itself a “tourist-saturated area” and is now considering ways to attract tourists that spend more money, " a bid to “reduce dependence on the British market”. Instead want to attract holidaymakers from Germany, the Netherlands and France." More in Canarian Weekly

2. Greenwashing
Back in February 2020, Delta Air Lines announced plans to go carbon natural by purchasing carbon credits for conserving forests and wetlands and reducing fuel consumption through more fuel-efficient operations. Krikor Kouyoumdjian, a partner with the legal firm Haderlein and Kouyoumdjian LLP  bringing the case is quoted in The Guardian: “The language carbon neutral is so provocative ... “When companies say: ‘Don’t worry about our emissions, they’re sorted,’ they are communicating complacency. They are letting consumers pay to feel better and not have to worry about the impact of their consumption. But that is counterfactual to reality. It is not something that you can pay away. “When I hear ‘carbon neutral’, I think you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re not hurting the environment in any way. It’s like you don’t exist. That’s what the words mean to any rational person: that we can participate in your business without any guilt. Most of us who care about the environment walk around with this giant cloud of guilt that our very existence hurts the environment in a bunch of ways.”

There is a piece in the i by Justin Francis of Responsible Travel pointing out that governments are getting tough on greenwashing and that it is a wake-up call for travellers.

3. Airbnb

  • In Gwynedd in Wales, homelessness has risen by 48% between 2019-20 and 2021-22, 40% of the county's housing stock in 2019 went to second-home buyers. About 15% of Gwynedd's housing stock is "used as bolt holes or investment properties - rather than homes". BBC  Gwynedd has about 8,000-second homes, with 3,600 people on waiting lists for social housing and 150 residents presenting as homeless every month. Second homeowners in the country now pay a 250% council tax rate,  planning regulation may also be used to prevent second homes.  BBC
  • France’s Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire has indicated that taxation reform is necessary " “We will reform the taxation system,”  “The only question is one of justice: there are too many windfall effects, too favourable of taxation. There is no reason to keep this taxation, which leads to excesses.” Airbnb has responded "Hundreds of thousands of French people rent accommodation on Airbnb, for a median income of 3,800 euros a year.  Reuters reported  “Airbnb helps boost the income of thousands of French families, and 60% say the extra income helps them afford rising living costs,” more
  • Florence has announced that to encourage locals to live in the historic centre of Florence it will ban the use of residential properties for short-term rental services.
  • New York Airbnb is challenging legislation requiring hosts to register with the local administration.
  • Airbnb has signed an MoU with the Union Ministry of Tourism in India to launch a dedicated 'Soul of India' microsite for the global audience showcasing India's rich culture and built heritage. more

    4. Greener Hotels?
    Greenview has published the Cornell Hotel Sustainability Benchmarking Index (CHSB), both the guidance and the data set enabling hotels to benchmark themselves against international and local competitors on energy, carbon and water. It is possible to compare average hotel performance for different types of hotels in different geographies if others are using the tool in your area. This is a significant step forward, but it does not inform consumer choice.
    What does a net zero hotel look like?
    Visual Capitalist sponsored by Booking.com, together with EY-Parthenon, has produced a road map to decarbonize the sector by 2050. EY-Parthenon has, for Booking.com, identified three key ways that net zero in the accommodation sector can be achieved: leverage existing carbon-saving measures, green the electricity supply and get the consumers on board. Download the report here.  They point out that only 27% of consumers report that sustainable travel doesn’t provide the luxury or comfort they seek. They quote the World Economic Forum research that has identified six areas that are holding consumers back from travelling more sustainably:

    • Limited availability of sustainable travel options.
    • Lack of awareness by consumers of travel and tourism’s sustainability challenges.
    • Low credibility and lack of trust in sustainability claims.
    • Price premium associated with sustainable travel options.
    • Cumbersome purchase experiences can dissuade consumers from leaping.
    • Lack of rewards or acknowledgement for consumers that do choose to travel sustainably."By making it easier for consumers to travel sustainably, the accommodation sector could unlock a self-reinforcing flywheel of decarbonization, where increased consumer demand for sustainable travel spurs more supply, which in turn brings more consumers on board, and on and on into a net zero future."

5. Cruise Lines
Icon of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, will take up to 10,000 guests and crew members around the Caribbean on its maiden voyage next year. The Telegraph reports that with seven swimming pools, a water park, an ice rink and is five times the size of the Titanic. "Made up of 20 decks, Icon of the Seas measures 1,198ft long and has a gross tonnage of 250,800. In comparison, the Titanic was 46,329 gross tons.  “Central Park”, will have several live plant walls, an aquadome and a 55ft waterfall, whereas “chill island” boasts four pools and a swim-up bar.
The MSC Euribia bills itself as “the world’s first net zero cruise”, eschewing carbon-intensive natural gas for bio-LNG (liquified natural gas). Linden Coppell, MSC’s vice president of sustainability, reported in The Telegraph “We’re going to face an increasingly strict regulatory environment,” “There’s going to be more pressure from stakeholders and guests to decarbonise.” It will cut cruise speed by  2 knots, air conditioning in the cabins has been reduced and Coppell says they are pushing for bedsheets not to be changed as frequently,
In India in the G20 tourism working group meeting a national-level thematic discussion was organized which focused on 'Making India a Hub for Cruise Tourism’ and deliberated on various challenges and opportunities for developing Cruise Tourism in India following the principles of sustainability. The Draft National Strategy for Cruise Tourism was discussed. more 

6. Nature-Positive Tourism
A rewilding project in northern Portugal’s Côa Valley is enriching wildlife and community.
Researchers from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Rice University and Wageningen University & Research found “...evidence that animals are affected by both what is happening inside and outside of the protected areas... the jaguar, the mountain gorilla, and the Sunda pangolin were all "affected by human activities, even when they resided in the depths of a nature reserve." More in The Guardian
In New York, people continue to question the ethics of horse-drawn carriages. In Rajasthan, the minerals, oil and gas, and natural resources company, Vedanta, is setting up a camel rescue hub through its philanthropic arm, the Anil Agarwal Foundation (AAF).

7. Tourism Taxes
UK tax authority launches crackdown on holiday let owners. The HMRC has sent ‘nudge’ letters to those it believes have not declared income from short-term rentals, about 1,000 according to the Financial Times. The FT reports that "About 127,000 individuals in the UK declared ownership of businesses for furnished holiday lets in their tax returns in the 2019-20 tax year, the latest year for which data is available.  Arrival reports that "HMRC’s scrutiny comes as the holiday rentals market has grown rapidly in recent years, helped by the preferential tax treatment of short-term lettings compared with traditional buy-to-let rentals."
Bhutan plans to lower tourism tax for visitors who extend their stay ... " until the end of 2024, tourists paying the daily rate for four days will be allowed to stay an additional four days. Tourists paying the 12-day fee can stay for a full month." Last year, "it increased its sustainable development tax to $200 (183 euros) per visitor per night, up from the $65 (59 euros) fee, which lasted for about three decades."

8. Aviation
Belgium’s Federal Minister of Mobility, Georges Gilkinet, announced a desire to implement a total ban on domestic flights in the country. Whisper Aero has unveiled the world's quietest electric aircraft engine - the propulsion system is inaudible from 61 metres away
Japan Airlines is experimenting with an "Any Wear, Anywhere" offer to passengers. Passengers on JAL travelling to Japan can select a clothing rental pack for travellers. The service eliminates the need to pack, drag or laundry and reduces the carbon footprint.

9. Climate Change

Our procrastination has made our situation much worse. Now we have to reduce emissions and adapt, there has been too little action. The Secretary General of the UN calls it out “The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home. … half of humanity is living in the danger zone now …” The International Energy Agency reports that global energy-related CO2 emissions grew in 2022 by +0.9%, when the need to fall by 7% per year every year to meet the goal of halving emissions this decade. They report that about half of the increase in oil-related emissions in 2022 was due to a rise in air travel. Never mind the patter, watch the hands, real reductions are required now.

Aviation is the Achilles Heel of our sector, we must demand that the aviation sector adopts and develops zero-carbon fuels before there is a forced reduction in flying. Hydrogen is our best bet. There are reasons to be optimistic about progress.Has climate change become the new normal?
In April Spain broke its record temperature for April hitting 38.8C according to the country's meteorological service. A blistering heatwave hit the country with temperatures 10-15C warmer than expected for April. The Guardian reports that "the systems causing sea level rise – specifically, the thermal expansion of the ocean and the melting of glaciers and ice sheets due to global heating – have a centuries-long time lag." They quote Prof Jonathan Bamber, director of the Bristol Glaciology Centre at the University of Bristol: "As the heat sinks into the deep ocean, it takes centuries to be moved around and for a new equilibrium to be reached. Ice sheets also have a response time, so if you change the thermometer tomorrow, it can take hundreds to thousands of years to reach an equilibrium."  ". Thermal expansion explained about 50% of sea level rise during 1971-2018 – the other components are glacier melt (22%), ice-sheet melt (20%) and changes in land water storage.
Extreme heat broke June records in Beijing and intense heat waves have hit the United States. Reuters reviewed climate change around the world. "In India, one of the most climate-vulnerable regions, deaths were reported to have spiked as a result of sustained high temperatures, and extreme heat has been recorded in Spain, Iran and Vietnam, raising fears that last year's deadly summer could become routine."
The UN plans to unmask fossil fuel lobbyists at climate talks, oil, gas and coal representatives will have to disclose their industry ties at future climate meetings

10. Miscellany

30 June Can you eat the view?
21 June Has climate change become the new normal?
13 June Family ownership can be a solution to the “tragedy of the commons.”
07 June Overtourism, parasitism and the Tragedy of the Commons

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The Sustainabilist UAE
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Climate Change in 7 charts

Responsible Traveller, South Africa
Encounter Africa


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