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RT News: Latest Developments in Responsible Tourism 07/2023

August 23, 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 as essential to demonstrating what is being achieved and avoiding greenwashing.
International Conference on Responsible Tourism and Hospitality (ICRTH) is an academic cum professional (industry) event that aims to advance the discourse on responsible tourism for sustainable development. The conference started in 2021 in a virtual form and continued in 2022 in a hybrid mode. In 2023  ICRTH will be co-organised by IPB University (Indonesia), Sarawak Research Society (Malaysia) and Responsible Borneo on 21-25 August 2023 with the themes “Reviving Tourism through Green Investments” and "Sustaining Tourism through Cultural Heritage Conservation".

  1. Now we have to Adapt to Climate Change
  2. Tourist Go Home!
  3. Aviation - Demand Management Required 
  4. Potable Water 
  5. The Hotel Industry’s Big Carbon Lie
  6. Ocean Temperatures 
  7. Shipping
  8. Is the Future Net Positive?
  9. Is certification the answer? 
  10. Miscellany

1. Now we have to Adapt to Climate Change

The World Meteorological Organization reported on July 18th that "Simultaneous heatwaves are occurring across the northern hemisphere, with prolonged daytime temperatures well above 40°C (104°F)" and that extreme heat is a major hazard. July 2023 was the warmest month ever recorded and likely for at least 120,000 years. Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director at the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. The month is estimated to have been around 1.5C warmer than the average for 1815 to 1900, so the average for pre-industrial times.” The extreme heat brings health risks and deaths too.
The UN Secretary-General underscored the need for global action on emissions, climate adaptation and climate finance. He warned that “the era of global warming has ended” and “the era of global boiling has arrived.” Although climate change is evident, “we can still stop the worst,” he said. “But to do so we must turn a year of burning heat into a year of burning ambition.”
The average global temperature topped 17˚C for the first time, reaching 17.08˚C on 6 July, according to the EU climate monitoring service Copernicus. In June, the global average temperature was perilously close to going through a rise of 1.5˚C, the average global temperature in June this year was 1.47˚C above the typical June in the pre-industrial period.
Greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and the consequent increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events leading to floods, drought and wildfires is a classic Tragedy of the Commons problem. There are climate change deniers but many more accept that greenhouse gas emissions but wish to continue with business as usual waiting for others to bear the costs of reducing emissions or hopeful that a magic solution will arrive, at the G20 hope has been placed on carbon capture and storage.\

Having procrastinated and failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions we have now both to reduce emissions and adapt to the climate change that the industrialised countries have caused.
The Stern Review proposed that one per cent of global GDP per annum was required to be invested to avoid the worst effects of climate change. In June 2008, Stern increased the estimate for the annual cost of achieving stabilisation between 500 and 550 ppm CO2e to 2% of GDP to account for faster-than-expected climate change. The longer action is delayed the more expensive it becomes.
Suzanne Moore, wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “The world is burning – stop pretending everything is fine. The extreme heatwave that caused the massive fires in Greece spread is the latest clear sign of an impending climate catastrophe. One of the Brits rescued off the beach in Rhodes compared it to Dunkirk. Children were screaming and falling in the water; teenagers were having panic attacks. But if this is Dunkirk, I wonder who is the enemy, exactly? Just Stop Oil’s aims are relatively modest. They want the Government to stop granting new gas and oil licences.” more

2. Tourist Go Home! 
Forbes headlined on 31 July: Tourists Go Home! Fed Up With Over-tourism, European Hotspots Impose Bans, Fines, Taxes. "Literally overrun by tourists, a number of the most iconic destinations have become unlivable for local residents and overcrowded, unsafe and uncomfortable for visitors." Florence is now banning short-term private vacation rentals in its historic centre. Amsterdam, attracting more than one million tourists on average each month,  has voted to ban cruise ships from entering its main port and mounted a "discouragement campaign". Mayor Femke Halsema explains that they are trying to discourage visitors from taking a “vacation from morals,” and control the tourist influx and the disruption they bring.  City spokesperson Carina Noordervliet told Forbes. "The discouragement campaign is targeted at a group of people who in general don't contribute to the city in a positive way." More

In Uttarakhand local government has been analysing the causes of overtourism and developing solutions. "Investing in infrastructure development is essential to accommodate the increasing tourist influx. Upgrading roads, building sustainable accommodation facilities, improving waste management systems, and enhancing public transportation are crucial steps to alleviate the pressure on existing infrastructure. Additionally, implementing carrying capacity limits in popular destinations can help regulate visitor numbers and ensure a better experience for everyone." "Empowering communities to participate in decision-making processes, supporting community-based tourism initiatives, and raising awareness about responsible tourism practices can help foster a sense of ownership and ensure that tourism benefits are shared equitably." and "Educating tourists about the importance of responsible tourism is crucial in addressing overcrowding issues. Promoting responsible behavior, respecting local customs and traditions, minimizing waste generation, and preserving the natural environment are key aspects that tourists should be aware of."

  • According to an analysis of Tripadvisor reviews by The Thinking Traveller, Edinburgh Castle is the country’s most overcrowded attraction. A reviewer ‘soap43’ wrote on Tripadvisor: “There are way too many people to enjoy the castle. “Crowds everywhere. Zigzagging queues to see the Crown Jewels so we decided to skip those although we would have loved to see it.” This was reported in the UK's Daily Express.
  • Times of India "Responsible tourism goes for a toss: Rowdy tourists seen driving SUVs at Ramsar sites in Ladakh Video
  • Athens is capping visitor numbers to the Acropolis at 20,000 per day. "With up to 23,000 daily visitors, mostly in large groups arriving before noon, the new visitor controls aim to preserve the monument's integrity and ensure a sustainable tourism experience. Culture Minister Lina Mendoni emphasized the importance of balancing tourism's benefits with the site's preservation,  "Obviously tourism is desirable for the country, for all of us. But we must work out how excessive tourism won't harm the monument."
  • In Scotland, The Herald reports that the "NC500 complaints driving Highlanders to vigilante action" The Scottish Sun reported that NC500 tourists have been branded "inappropriate" and "disrespectful" after parking their campervans in cemetery car parks.
  • The Express "Tourists 'ruining' idyllic seaside town as 'disgusting' behaviour hits a new low as Footage emerged of a tourist defecating on a passed-out reveller in a Spanish coastal town." Situated between Palma and Llucmajor, Arenal is on the opposite side of the bay to the infamous party town of  Magaluf Alain  "Carbonell, vice-president of the Arenal Neighbourhood Association, told local paper Ultima Hora: "This is what is happening here. They are very wild people. They’re very drunk, drugged and full of brutal aggressiveness."They’re like the mafia as far as we’re concerned."
  • Dubrovnik was recently declared the most tourism-burdened place in Europe with 36 tourists per inhabitant in peak season. Since 2017 the City Council has been developing a Respect the City strategy to "find working solutions in dealing with the challenges of excessive tourism. Part of this goal is creating a balance between the needs of the economy and the quality of life of citizens." A range of behaviours can now incur fines of up to €265 for repeat offenders.

3. Aviation - Demand Management Required
Chris Lyle of Air Transport Economics. In 1997, he was ICAO's director responsible for engagement with the  Kyoto Protocol and has been actively involved in aviation emissions mitigation policy ever since. Chris has just published a paper arguing that there is "increasing evidence that aviation emissions mitigation measures, as presently propounded, will be substantially inadequate to achieve the sector’s requisite contribution to the Paris Agreement targets and that demand management needs to be added to the mitigation package - at an early date." "The scientific consensus is that aviation’s global CO2 emissions would have to peak by 2025, be reduced by 2030 to about half of 2019 levels and by 2050 to zero (not any “net” zero which includes out-of-sector carbon offsetting, capture and storage). " Chris argues that "The need for capping aviation operations is now on the radar." Requiring "slowing the growth in aviation - including capping long-haul flights (over 3 500 km) to 2019 levels. He cites as a "prime example of actual capping policy is the proposal by the Netherlands government to reduce the number of flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport .." The airport slot allocation process could be used to limit flying exemptions could be given for flights to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Capturing Carbon greenhouse gas emissions and transforming it into jet full is an appealing option, it facilitates business as usual. more
Twelve is developing the capacity to replace the petrochemicals in their products and supply chains with CO2Made® chemicals, materials and fuels, eliminating emissions from thousands of everyday products and accelerating the path to carbon zero. "By splitting water molecules and carbon dioxide molecules, mixing the resulting carbon monoxide and hydrogen into “syngas”, then processing them using the Fischer-Tropsch method, they will create a liquid that is chemically identical to jet fuel extracted from fossils." Twelve is expecting to produce only an estimated 40,000 gallons of jet fuel per year at first.  Paul Peeters is of the view that making fuels from CO2 is the only viable and sustainable solution for aviation in the coming decade. These e-fuels play an essential role in for instance the Envision 2030  The technology's current energy efficiency is only 20% (so you need five times the renewable energy input to create the synthetic jet fuel.).

Carbon Capture and Storage  Catherine Raw of energy company SSE has told the BBC that building a similar-sized gas power station with carbon capture would roughly double the cost. "These power stations look like another excuse for the government to show preference to their friends in the oil and gas industry, making energy more expensive to everyone else's disadvantage," says Dr Doug Parr of campaign group Greenpeace UK. The only carbon capture power station currently operating is a coal-fired plant at Boundary Dam in western Canada.

4. Potable Water

More than 70% of the Earth’s surface is water. That’s 326 million trillion gallons of water, yet humanity still faces a tight supply.
97% of this water is saline and unfit for consumption. Of the remaining 3% of freshwater, about two-thirds are locked away in the form of snow, glaciers, and polar ice caps. Meanwhile, just under a third of freshwater is found in fast-depleting groundwater resources.
That leaves just 1% of global freshwater as “easily” sourced supply from rainfall as well as freshwater reservoirs including rivers and lakes. There is detailed data on per capita water withdrawals and changes in per capita use from 1960 to 2015 by country. data and graphics

Countries facing water security issues account for 72% of the world’s population, with an additional 8% of the global population facing critical water insecurity. That includes 4.3 billion people in the Asia-Pacific region alone and an additional 1.3 billion people across Africa. Many of these countries are grappling with issues including fast-growing populations and drought conditions faster than they can develop the necessary infrastructure to deal with them.
Water security remains a concern around the world, but is especially dire in regions like the Middle East and Africa, where 13 of the 23 nations in the critically insecure category are located.
In total, 113 countries are considered water insecure, including the world’s two most populated, India and China. An additional 24 countries are considered critically water insecure, with the largest by population including Pakistan and Ethiopia more

The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance has a Hotel Water Measurement Initiative  (HWMI) a free tool that can be used to measure and calculate the water usage of hotel stays and meetings in hotels. A hotel can use an average of 1,500 litres per room per day which can vastly exceed that of local populations in water-scarce destinations.4 In some locations, tourism uses over eight times more water per person on average than the local population.5 Even hotels located in regions with plenty of water could be having an impact if they are sourcing products or services from water-scarce locations.
The detergent manufacturer Finish working with the Global Water Partnership-Mediterranean (GWP-Med) are equipping all the households of the islands of Lipsi with special water-saving filters to reduce water usage. Video  Lipsi is also promoting "no swimming pool" holidays offering travellers an unspoilt natural paradise. The response from the high-quality public in Greece and abroad is huge, leading to an impressive increase in demand for the island in recent years,” Video

5. The Hotel Industry’s Big Carbon Lie
has raised the issue of embodied carbon: ". the term that encapsulates all the harmful greenhouse gases emitted during the renovation and construction of a building—an outsize part of any project’s footprint. The net-zero target for hotels is for their operations. "Embodied carbon in construction—contributing to at least 21% of global emissions, according to Brightworks Sustainability—is hardly a whisper amid the noise, if it’s mentioned at all, especially given how frequently hotels renovate compared with other types of large buildings."
"Aurora Jensen, a project manager and materials specialist at Brightworks Sustainability, which helps clients choose the most sustainable construction materials and calculates their embodied and operational carbon footprints, agrees. “When a lot of these hotels say they are net-zero, they don’t necessarily understand the claim they are making,” she says. Without any regulation or agreed-upon definition of what it means to be net-zero, she adds, everything is open to interpretation—and sometimes, obfuscation."

6. Ocean Temperatures
Following a series of marine heatwaves this year in the UK, the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico. In June, temperatures in UK waters were 3C to 5C higher than average. In Florida, sea surface temperatures hit 38.44C (101F) last week - comparable to a hot tub.more

 7. Shipping

The world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean International's Icon of the Seas, will make its first voyage in January 2024. The vessel nearly 1,200 feet long, will be able to host up to 5,610 passengers and 2,350 crew members across its 19 floors, with eight neighbourhoods. The deck plans are here. Icon of the Seas has 20 decks with seven swimming pools and six water slides. The company claims the ship has the tallest waterfall, the tallest water slide, the largest waterpark, and the first suspended infinity pool of any ship. Icon of the Seas is powered by liquified natural gas (LNG), with a gross tonnage of 250,800. The ship has six multi-fuel Wärtsilä engines generating 67,500 kW (90,520 hp) of power. The engines can be powered with both LNG and distillate fuel. more
The International Council on Clean Transportation reports that "In the first scheduled revision of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) greenhouse gas (GHG) strategy, member states just agreed to (1) reach net-zero GHG emissions by or around 2050 and (2) “indicative checkpoints” that call for reducing total GHG emissions by 20% and striving for 30% by 2030 and 70% and striving for 80% by 2040, both relative to 2008. This is a big improvement on the IMO’s initial GHG strategy, set in 2018, which aimed to cut GHG emissions by only 50% by 2050 and contained no absolute emissions reduction targets for the intervening years." But they conclude " Success in decarbonizing shipping will likely require international rules complemented by more ambitious regional, national, and sub-national rules. "
Mark Lutes, head of WWF's delegation at the IMO, was critical: “The IMO emissions reduction strategy has missed the boat on the 1.5C pathway. There’s no time for half-measures, vague commitments and slow progress."
All but 2.4% of the current global fleet runs on fossil fuels. Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) is a transitional fuel, while alternate fuel technologies mature. LNG emits between 13.2% and 16.6% less CO2 than conventional bunker fuel oil, a highly viscous residual fuel that is high in sulphur. However, LNG-powered containerships represent 29.23% of the existing order book.  Data from Seaspan suggests that slowing oden could reduce emissions by 8.5%, propeller upgrades (6.5%), hull coatings (up to 5.0%), and main engine retrofits (4.4%) more

8. Is the Future Net Positive?
The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA), now has donor members and partners representing globally 50,000 hotels, 7 million rooms, more than 270 brands and more than 40 supply chain and strategic partners focused on Net Positive Hospitality. A UK registered charity committed to public benefit “anywhere in the world to advance education, prevent and relieve poverty and to relieve unemployment, (including those with little or no education, survivors of human trafficking, people with disabilities, refugees and migrants). Advance Human rights, promote the protection & preservation of the natural environment and sustainable development.” Unlike the GSTC’s certification system, the SHA’s benchmarking framework tool will enable consumers and neighbours to see where the hotel or company is making the most effort and making the biggest difference." more

9. Is certification the answer?

More and more people are encountering the gap between certification status and experience in the property. Cardboard jammed in the key slot on the wall resulting in the air conditioning being on all day, the air conditioning set unnecessarily low, lights on, and the TV announcing your name when you walk into the room. These practices continue to undermine the GSTC certification system.

The offended guest or client cannot seek compensation for misselling – the guest or tourist has no contract with the certifier and cannot secure compensation.

As worthy as the GSTC scheme is, there are other fundamental problems.

  • GSTC Certification, Accreditation and Recognition are explained on the website but confusing for consumers.
  • The consumer encounters a plethora of GSTC-recognised labels and others and it is unclear what the label guarantees.
  • Certification does not make it possible to identify a hotel in a water-scarce area using the least water per guest night nor the one with the best employment conditions. The labels are opaque.
  • There is no effective way of enforcing compliance with the GSTC standards
  • We do not have data on how many accommodations are certified nor on how many have been cautioned or had labels withdrawn.

Consumers are looking for sustainable accommodation, transport and attractions but report that they are unable to find it. Booking.com’s 2022 report reveals a 10% increase in demand for sustainable products over 2021, and in 2023, 51% believe there are not enough sustainable travel options, 44% report that they don’t know where to find more sustainable options.
The ecosystem around sustainability assurance is evolving with the growth of science-based targets and major companies reporting on their targets and their progress in meeting them." more

10. Miscellany
In India,
pro-poor tourism development schemes are being run with the help of World Bank funding. These are being implemented through to March 2024. Work is being done in Vrindavan, Braj, Agra, Sarnath and Kushinagar.
India, Beypore, Kerala state government commits 1 crore for RT projects.
The Travel Foundation's Annual Review of 2022 has  been published
Caribbean Matters: What is 'responsible' tourism, and why is it important? Denise Oliver Velez writing in the Daily Kos
YP Young Post part of the South China Morning Post How to avoid being part of the overtourism problem the next time you travel
Iberostar  5 Ways This International Hotel Brand Is Doing Its Part to Save the Ocean & Forbes The Iberostar Group has received the 2023 Condé Nast Traveler award in the “Sustainable & Eco” category,
Why you should visit Cesky Krumlov, the ‘Prague-in-miniature’ that’s embracing responsible tourism
Envisioning Tourism in 2030 & Beyond: Research Report on Decarbonisation The report has been compiled by the Travel Foundation with the Centre of Expertise in Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality, Breda University of Applied Sciences, the European Tourism Futures Institute, and the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions.
In the UK  a Bill to prohibit the sale and advertising of activities abroad which involve low standards of welfare for animals has passed the House of Commons and is now in the Committee Stage in the House of Lords.
What It’s Like to be a Female Tour Guide in Saudi Arabia New York Times
Solar tourism offers a unique blend of awe-inspiring mountain landscapes and the invigorating rays of the sun.
New Zealand continues to drive out single-use plastics. Since July 1st New Zealand has been the first country in the world to ban plastic produce bags. “This alone will remove 150 million bags from circulation every year. That’s 17,000 plastic bags, every single hour.  more

26 July Now we have to adapt to climate change
18 July Is the future net positive?
13 July Is certification the answer? 
04 July It cannot be about us; without us

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