Economist Impact Report Reveals How Cities Can Balance Tourism and Sustainability
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“Destination always” an Economist Impact report, supported by Booking.com, has explored the impact of visitors on cities and regions across the world.
Travel and tourism generates US$2.5trn in direct revenues globally, helping to provide economic opportunities to people and destinations, build intercultural understanding and foster appreciation of the natural world. But there are also negative consequences–from overcrowding in popular destinations to concerns around climate change, environmental conservation and preservation of cultural heritage.
“Destination always” measures the economic, environmental and social impacts of overnight stays in 50 cities and regions globally. It unpacks the impact of overnight visitors on economic, environmental and social outcomes–like employment, air pollution and social tolerance–and explores the tools with which stakeholders can manage the tradeoffs.
Understanding potential tradeoffs allows policymakers to refine travel and tourism strategies to optimise the benefits of overnight stays while minimising adverse effects. The report analyses policies and programmes that have been effective and highlights the importance of getting the right policy mix which fits local context and challenges.
The research found that the top five most successful cities at attracting overnight visitors while making progress on social and environmental outcomes are:
- Berlin, Germany
- Paris, France
- London, UK
- Melbourne, Australia
- Chicago, USA
Economist Impact are presenting the key findings from the report at an intimate gathering today in London. The briefing is being presented by Matus Samel, senior manager, sustainability at Economist Impact, and is followed by two fireside chats to further explore the impacts of the visitor economy on destinations. The speakers are Armando Peres, vice-president, Tourism Committee at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and former deputy mayor of Venice, and Ben Fogle, an award-winning broadcaster and adventurer.
The sessions are being moderated by John Ferguson, practice lead, new globalisation at Economist Impact and Elizabeth Sukkar, senior research manager at Economist Impact.
At a global level, the report uncovered four broad benefits from overnight visitors:
- They positively contribute to economic growth and employment in their recipient destinations, though the magnitude can depend on the destination’s ability to minimise economic leakages and attract high-value-add visitors. The positive impact of overnight stays on real GDP was seen across all regions, especially in North America where a 1% increase in visits is associated with a roughly 0.5% increase in real GDP. This compares with 0.3% in Latin America and the Caribbean, 0.24% in Asia Pacific, and 0.22% in Europe.
- Overnight visitors have enormous potential to catalyse progress towards gender equality. The modelling found that a 1% increase in international tourist arrivals was linked to a 0.02% improvement in a geography’s score in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report.
- Travel and tourism are shown to improve social tolerance. 75% of respondents in Economist Impact’s population survey agreed that engagement with visitors allowed residents to better understand different cultures and communities, with two-thirds agreeing that visitors to their communities positively impacted locals’ tolerance towards people from abroad.
- On the environmental side, the research highlighted that the majority of visitors’ carbon footprints are related to transport to and from the destination. However, while visitors contribute to destinations’ emissions and air pollution, the energy mix and carbon intensity of the destination are the key factors determining the level of emissions visitors produce locally.
Matus Samel, senior manager, sustainability at Economist Impact commented: “The report highlights there is no silver bullet when it comes to harnessing the economic impacts of overnight stays. Instead geographies and stakeholders need to get the right policy mix that fits local contexts and challenges. The findings illustrate that high-income international cities tend to be finding this balance, but at a fundamental level, local businesses and employees need support and the right enabling environment to be able to adequately provide the goods and services visitors want and need.”
Armando Peres, vice-president, Tourism Committee at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) mentioned: “The challenge for tourism destinations will be to harness benefits while minimising negative facets. To do so, it is crucial to ensure a long-term, virtuous, strong collaboration between the public sector at national, regional and local level, and the private stakeholders representing the tourism industry. They must also take into account the uniqueness of each territory, be they cities or non-urban destinations.”