British lawmakers will count the environmental cost of mass tourism

British lawmakers will count the environmental cost of mass tourism

Jul 22, 2019 – 8:58 PM

Moroccans walk between parasols on the beach in the Moroccan capital Rabat, August 21, 2016. AFP / Fadel Senna

LONDON: British lawmakers said on Thursday they would count the environmental cost of mass tourism amid warnings that leisure travel poses an ever greater threat to the planet.

Fast-growing tourism accounts for around 5% of greenhouse gas emissions globally as floods of visitors damage a multitude of hotspots, said the Environmental Audit Committee, which is examining the impact of the policy government on the environment.

From queues up to Everest to cruisers invading Venice, must-see sites are increasingly threatened by their very popularity. And that’s before the emissions from planes, trains and cars are taken into account.

“Now that summer is here, families are looking forward to a well-deserved vacation,” committee chair Mary Creaghin said in a statement. “But when we book a cruise, flights, or visit a popular tourist destination, it’s easy to overlook the environmental impact of our vacation.”

A study last year found that a global tourism boom made it difficult to slow climate change, with flights being the main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the World Tourism Organization, a United Nations agency, some 1.4 billion people were international tourists in 2018, up 6% from the previous year, as cheap flights and easy connections help fuel mass tourism.

Britain earns billions of pounds from foreign visitors – drawn to everything from royal intrigue to cutting-edge culture.

But the cost is also high, with a deep division over whether to expand London Heathrow, already Europe’s busiest airport.

Eco-friendly tourism could boost economic growth and protect the environment, lawmakers said, but in many cases “overtourism” has harmed people and their monuments.

Thailand has announced that it will shut off access to Maya Bay, which featured in the hit movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, for four months a year after visitors damaged coral reefs.

Cities from Venice in Italy to George Town in Malaysia have also seen protests against huge influxes of tourists, which can cause damage, raise rents and drive out local life.

The committee said it would consider whether the government should support sustainable tourism, whether it should take greater responsibility for the impact of the actions of UK visitors abroad, and how sustainable travel could help reduce shows.

Urgent action is needed to monitor the impact of tourism and protect valuable destinations, said Ben Lynam of the Travel Foundation, a charity that promotes sustainable tourism.

“No one is taking advantage of getting to a point where things are so bad that you have to close the attractions,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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