Sustainable tourism

In 2017 authorities introduced a code of conduct for visitors to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Published in five languages, the code advises visitors on laws, regulations and customs with the aim of promoting respect for local places and people.

Plans are in place to create a similar code of conduct to educate locals about how to interact with foreign visitors.

Thai authorities have taken more extreme measures, closing Maya Bay – the famed location for the film The Beach – to visitors. The idyllic spot in the Phi Phi Islands attracted up to 5,000 people each day, overcrowding the small bay and causing damage to the surrounding reef.

It remains to be seen if a temporary closure will be sufficient to reverse the damage to the local marine ecosystem.

A delicate balance exists between the positive economic contribution that mass tourism makes and its potentially harmful impact on local customs, ways of life, infrastructure and the environment.

Direct and total contribution of travel and tourism to global economy 2006-2017 (trillion US dollars)

Image: Statista

As the chart above shows, the direct economic contribution of global travel and tourism reached approximately $2.57 trillion in 2017.

The World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 calculates that for every 30 new tourists to a destination, one new job is created. The industry accounts for 30% of world services exports and is a major employment generator.

But unless tourism can be made more sustainable, the future cost to local traditions, lifestyles and ecosystems could become too high a price to pay.