Sustainable tourism: The environmental dimension

13-03-2017

Tourism is the third largest economic sector in the European Union (EU). It is estimated to employ a total of 17 million people, and its overall contribution to the economy is close to 10 % of EU gross domestic product. Tourism has a special, two-way relationship with the environment. On the one hand, the quality of the environment is essential to tourism’s success, as this is very often what attracts people to visit a place, and persuades them to go back. On the other hand, tourism can become the vector of significant pressures and impacts on the environment. Potential adverse effects of tourism development relate to three main areas: strain on natural resources; pollution; and physical impacts, typically involving the degradation of ecosystems. Climate change and tourism are closely interlinked. While the tourism sector contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, for the most part derived from the transport of tourists, it also faces profound impacts from global warming. The beach , winter- and nature-based tourism segments are likely to be most affected. Research points to a lack of relevant, EU-wide, recent and detailed data about the impacts of tourism on the environment. The European Environment Agency is working on the elaboration of a reporting mechanism on the tourism and environment relationship, based on several indicators, many of which are consistent with the European tourism indicators system for sustainable destination management (ETIS), developed as part of EU action to promote tourism sustainability.

Tourism is the third largest economic sector in the European Union (EU). It is estimated to employ a total of 17 million people, and its overall contribution to the economy is close to 10 % of EU gross domestic product. Tourism has a special, two-way relationship with the environment. On the one hand, the quality of the environment is essential to tourism’s success, as this is very often what attracts people to visit a place, and persuades them to go back. On the other hand, tourism can become the vector of significant pressures and impacts on the environment. Potential adverse effects of tourism development relate to three main areas: strain on natural resources; pollution; and physical impacts, typically involving the degradation of ecosystems. Climate change and tourism are closely interlinked. While the tourism sector contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, for the most part derived from the transport of tourists, it also faces profound impacts from global warming. The beach , winter- and nature-based tourism segments are likely to be most affected. Research points to a lack of relevant, EU-wide, recent and detailed data about the impacts of tourism on the environment. The European Environment Agency is working on the elaboration of a reporting mechanism on the tourism and environment relationship, based on several indicators, many of which are consistent with the European tourism indicators system for sustainable destination management (ETIS), developed as part of EU action to promote tourism sustainability.