EplerWood International, Cornell University, and the Travel Foundation collaborated on a report that explores innovations in both policy and finance to manage the invisible burden of tourism. This report makes a case for public-private cooperation in the design of data-driven mechanisms for managing, monitoring and financing destinations worldwide.
The analysis began with in-depth interviews with academic, business, and global experts and a roundtable at Cornell University. It was followed up with research into current academic and case literature and sustainability studies from relevant fields such as urban planning, protected area management, environmental economics, and the digital economy.
After decades of steady growth, international tourist numbers surpassed 1 billion for the first time in 2012. The report shows that destinations across the world are not prepared for the unprecedented demands this has placed on them, leading to alarming reports of overtourism. With growth set to continue exponentially, reaching 1.8 billion tourists by 2030, a global crisis is looming.
While overtourism is an important symptom, the use of vital natural, social and public assets without recompense is highlighted as the core of the problem. The report suggests that, wherever it exists, tourism places an “invisible burden” on destinations and their residents. The invisible burden leaves inadequate revenue to provide a sustainable foundation to manage the rapid growth of tourism worldwide.
Examples of the invisible burden of tourism include the costs of:
- Expanding local infrastructure to meet growing tourism needs
- High demand for scarce land and valuable urban resources
- Managing increased exposure to climate change risks, especially with coastal tourism
- Protecting historic public spaces and monuments
It’s clear that the failure to properly account for the full cost of tourism growth is preventing action. Therefore, new accounting mechanisms are necessary to protect the very assets on which national economies and businesses worldwide depend.
- Megan Epler Wood (Managing Director, Sustainable Tourism Asset Management Program at Cornell University; Owner and Principal of EplerWood International); author of Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet
- Dr. Mark Milstein (Clinical Professor of Management at Cornell University
- Kathleen Ahamed-Broadhurst (Senior Researcher, EplerWood International)
- With editorial support from, and consultation with, the Travel Foundation