Six reasons why mass tourism is not sustainable | Guardian of sustainable business

“You never change things by fighting against the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
–Buckminster Fuller

Despite the slow but steady increase in the number of companies claiming to be responsible or green, the fact remains that the current system of international mass tourism is totally unsustainable.

Through the application of the same industrial model developed for cars, homes and consumer goods, international tourism has exploded in size since the 1950s and has spread to virtually every nook and cranny of the planet, making disappear money, jobs, golf courses, airports and huge amounts of real estate.

Claimed by the UN world tourism organization As a stimulus to economic recovery, tourism is, without a doubt, a force to be reckoned with. It generates over $2.1 billion in annual revenue. In many countries and regions of the world, tourism is now the main source of foreign currency, jobs and cash.

1.8 billion travelers over the next 17 years, but many continue to deny that the industry is based on a finite and limited supply of attractions, or accessible places rich in scenic beauty or culture.

The industry is like a high-speed train, jam-packed with passengers with cheap tickets, hurtling towards the edge of a cliff. It is therefore appropriate to ask why this challenge generates so little debate in the press and in the general economic literature.

End the unsustainable addiction to travel

Obviously, the media makes a lot of money advertising vacation spots around the world, but on a broader level, suppliers, customers and regulators may have all become so dependent on the promise and the pleasures of frequent, cheap travel that the prospect of going without is simply too much to contemplate. Perhaps some form of “willful blindness” has infected us all.

The challenge turns out to be much more complex than the mere prospect of meteoric volume growth on a finite planet. Many industries are collapsing financially as margins shrink. Meanwhile, because of the congestion or overexploitation of scarce water and land resources, many destinations are destroying the landscapes and attractions, both natural and cultural, on which they depend.

I’ve found six main reasons why the current tourism model is past its prime and why more of us are focusing on creating alternatives:

1. Mass industrial tourism relies on the assembly, distribution and consumption of packaged products and therefore one product is substitutable for another. The commodification of what should be revered as unique is further compounded by the application of industrial cost-cutting strategies of homogenization, standardization, and automation that further eliminate any remaining vestige of difference, let alone mystique. Tourists “do” places and rarely get a chance to marvel and wonder.

2. In most young destinations, low barriers to entry and lack of regulation encourage rapid growth and speculation. Local politicians and often less local developers benefit enormously from this growth, but rarely stay around long enough to deal with crises caused by overcapacity and demand volatility.

3. The product is perishable – it is a time-based service – and cannot be stored. So when capacity increases and demand decreases, lowering prices is the adaptive tactic of choice.

4. Technological connectivity and comparison shopping engines have shifted purchasing power to consumers, who have been convinced, through repeated discounts, that low-cost travel is now a right – not a privilege. This accelerates the downward pressure on prices and yields.

5. Residents of tourism hotspots, which may have welcomed the first influx of visitors, are quickly discovering that cheap travel does not reduce their costs. Visitors are driving up the prices of land, food, water, accommodation and infrastructure at a rate closely correlated with declining margins for tourism operators. Unfortunately, more tourism often means fewer benefits for host communities.

6. After struggling so much to be recognized as an industry, the tourism community is fragmenting again into its specific sectors when issues of waste, carbon, water scarcity and other “externalities” are raised . Airlines pay no taxes on aviation fuel and have fought carbon taxes for decades.

What to do

We need to develop the idea of ​​conscious travel and start imagining a better alternative. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand or silver bullet; change will have to happen locally, one destination at a time.

This will require first and foremost that hosts wake up and see their world differently – not as a resource to be exploited, but as a sacred place to be protected and celebrated for its uniqueness.

Second, it is important that they begin to view their clients not as mere units of consumption, but as guests seeking healing and transformation. Our mindful or conscious alternative is about less bulk, congestion, hassle, destruction and harm and more meaning, purpose, value, peace and fulfillment. In short, not more but better.

Tomorrow on Guardian Sustainable Business I will explore how we can start moving in this direction.

Anna Pollock has 40 years of experience as a strategist, analyst and change agent for travel destinations around the world. She is the founder of Conscious travel.

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