By United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development NGO Steering Committee
“...Many of the demand patterns in tourism reflect the unsustainable lifestyles of industrialised consumer societies. Tourism acts as an agent in exporting these life-styles and consumerist attitudes to less industrialised societies via demonstration effects and modelling. Tourism increases demand for imported consumer goods in the destinations, with detrimental effects on the environment, due to the ecological costs of transport and the high amount of waste generated. Increasing imports also reduce local/national economic gains, due to foreign exchange leakages.
The over-consumption of resources by tourists and tourism infrastructure, eg the excessive use of water, fire wood or food, is incompatible with sustainable development. The carrying capacity of natural environments is often exceeded with the addition of tourism demands. Tourist demand for resources (land, water, energy, food) may also compete with the needs of local people and may increase social inequality, gender inequality and injustice. Tourist transport, especially air travel, is highly energy intensive and causes pollutant emissions. Many tourism activities such as skiing, boating, mountain hiking, motorised watersports (eg jet skies), and trekking represent a stress to fragile ecosystems.
Tourists often lack information and awareness about their impact in a different culture and environment, about the impacts of tourism on socio-economic and socio-cultural development, and about the environmental costs of tourism. While tourists may be open to learning, they are often unaware of inappropriate behaviour and have little guidance on how to improve. Others may refuse to adapt to local life-styles, even if informed, insisting on their freedom to behave as they want.
While the tourism industry may be willing to improve their products and services, there is a conflict between the industry's pursuit of economic gains and social and environmental responsibility. The industry lacks information on the requirements of sustainable tourism and on how to integrate economic forces with environmental and social requirements. Tourists shopping for escapism generally abide by one fundamental consumer ethic: receipt upon payment. Consumer advocates may intervene where inferior customer service is delivered. However, the sustainability of corporate practices is self-regulated. This conflict of interest within industry, and consumers' low awareness of tourism impacts have led to a widespread abuse of 'green' labelling.
The mass media, especially television through films and reports about events, sights, etc. in other parts of the world, are increasingly influential on travel decisions and consumer behaviour in the destinations. These programmes, however, often serve primarily as advertisements, painting images of destinations, rather than providing relevant information for potential travellers.
There is a lack of reliable and appropriate (e.g. age and gender dis-aggregated) research data on the determinants of tourist demand, motivation and behaviour. Few countries, whether tourist sending or tourist receiving countries, collect such data that are helpful under sustainable development criteria. Most studies of tourist behaviour focus on mainstream markets or market segments, rather than assessing or modelling sustainable alternatives.
Governments in many tourist destinations and local communities have little or no information on what to expect from tourism and the incoming tourists and how to influence and control tourism and guide tourist behaviour. They are controlled by international/global institutions, the industry and the consumers. Governments of the affluent countries are only beginning to look at the issues of outgoing tourism. Governments are not yet sufficiently aware of their responsibility and methods to influence tourist behaviour by political and legal guidelines/criteria and appropriate planning and policies.
Trade unions have fought successfully for shorter working hours and more vacation. However, they need to take more responsibility for helping to create a leisure industry that is more sustainable.
Consumer behaviour can and must be influenced by:a) Fighting unsustainable forms and aspects of tourism, at the various levels, by sanctioning unacceptable behaviour and discouraging inappropriate consumer behaviour. b) Promoting responsible and sustainable patterns of behaviour, at the various levels, by promoting best practises and encouraging responsible consumer behaviour.
There are different types of instruments and remedial measures available:
Legal measures (rules, regulations, sanctions);
Market based instruments, such as taxes to influence market prices;
Promotion of and (financial) support for best practice;
Industry self-monitoring/codes of conduct [STANDARDS];
Information, education and research.