Much has been made in the British press in the last week about the royal visit to Bhutan. “I have seen the future of tourism, and it’s designed to keep you out,” wrote Sean Thomas in The Spectator, before going on to explain how the Himalayan mountain kingdom’s policy of compelling every international visitor to pay £200 a day just to be in the country had the impact of ensuring that only a very small number of very wealthy people visited.
“Back in the 1980s (when perhaps two dozen outsiders made it into Bhutan every year),” writes Thomas. The authorities in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon looked at the way tourism was blitzing its way across similar Asian beauties such as Nepal and Thailand, India and the Seychelles, and thought ‘not for us’. They decided to impose a surcharge on all foreign visitors to keep the numbers down and so preserve their culture.”
Bhutan’s policy may be decades old, but in recent months the stories of countries and regions trying to adopt their own restraints and limits, but only after the numbers of tourists became unmanageable, continue to grow. The Italian region of Cinqueterre is to cap the number of visitors to the Italian region this summer. The Balearics are to impose a tourist tax on accommodation and cruise ship visitors. And just last week, Balinese community leaders have called on the government to implement policies that encourage sustainable tourism on the island, including a moratorium on new hotel construction in southern Bali. It said that Bali needed to stop developing new tourist accommodation for at least the next five to 10 years.
Nor is the issue confined to tourists’ impact on nature and unspoilt rural spaces. An article last week on Treehugger said that increasing number of reports into the growth of sharing economy sites like Airbnb suggest that the impact on ownership and rental patterns in major cities like London, New York and Vancouver are “actually contributing to a growing housing crisis by diverting rental stock that could have been rented to local, long-term tenants instead.”
All over the world, the impacts of an ever-growing number of tourists being drawn to iconic destinations are being felt. Places are reaching – and passing – their limits. Yet still the discussions on how to address this are confined to the responsible fringes of mainstream tourism.
This year at WTM London the responsible tourism programme’s focus will be on looking back at 20 years in the development of responsible tourism, marking the 10th anniversary of World Responsible Tourism Day at WTM London, and asking where we go from here. Whether we are looking at our industry’s impact on climate change or biodiversity, child protection or community development, the central question has to be about our attitude to growth.
Budgets are still focussed on boosting overall numbers. Marketing campaigns still seek to draw people to the same flagship sights. Press releases and trade stories celebrate growth as the absolute marker of success. It’s too late to become like Bhutan. But from Bali to the Balearics communities are seeking answers.
And we need to find them fast.
This article was first published on the WTM London site. Read the original article here: When will tourism industry start talking sensibly about growth? | Travel Industry Blog, Reports, Press Releases | WTM London