UK parliamentary inquiry on sustainable tourism opens

UK parliamentary inquiry on sustainable tourism opens
British tourism is expected to expand by 3.8% a year, up to 2025,
and account for more than a tenth of all jobs. Source (Visit Britain; 2013)

On 18 June 2019, the UK Environment Audit Committee launched a new parliamentary inquiry into sustainable tourism.

The inquiry is an opportunity for a cross-party group of UK MPs to scrutinise both the impacts of tourism and travel on the environment, such as airplane emissions and overcrowding, as well as, to investigate how these negative impacts can be reduced.

The Committee, acknowledges that if done well, tourism can act as a force for good, to help foster economic growth, environmental protection and poverty alleviation, and is currently inviting written evidence submissions until Friday 13 September 2019.

MPs will investigate, both how the UK Government can support sustainable inbound tourism in the UK, as well as, whether the UK Government should play a greater role in the environmental costs caused by UK holiday-makers who venture overseas.

A report is expected to be published in early 2020, and will report back on ways to reduce the negative costs of tourism and travel on the environment, which could include mechanisms, such as incentives, taxation, and offsets.

Tourism growth

UK parliamentary inquiry on sustainable tourism opens
Source: Visit Britain (link)

According to research, commissioned by Visit Britain (source), in 2013, tourism is Britain’s fastest growing industry, and is expected to expand by 3.8% a year, up to 2025, and accounts for more than a tenth of all jobs. Tourism is also one of the world’s fastest growing industries and accounts for more than 10% of global GDP.

UK parliamentary inquiry on sustainable tourism opens
Travel and tourism adds 5% to global greenhouse (GHG) emissions and could put the UK’s net zero target at risk, the UK Environment Audit Committee says.

Impacts of tourism on the environment

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP, said:

“Now that summer is here, families are looking forward to a well-earned holiday. But when we book a cruise, flights or visit a popular tourist destination, it’s easy to forget about the environmental impact our holidays are having.

“The recent cruise ship collision in Venice, as well as protests both there and in Barcelona, are a sharp reminder of the effects of ‘overtourism’ and the damage that can be done to the environment and local quality of life.

“The industry adds five percent to global greenhouse emissions, putting our net zero by 2050 target at risk. While there are some sustainable practices, we want to look closely at the Government’s actions to ensure the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism are minimised.”

Climate change and tourism

A study, in 2018, by researchers at the University of Sydney, in Australia, however, cite a greater impact of travel and tourism on climate change, than the 5% cited by the Committee.

The researchers concluded that tourism has expanded so rapidly that it now accounts for 8% of the greenhouse gases; up to 4 times previous estimates. The study estimated the annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of tourism in 160 countries. The researchers conclude that the tourism industry emits around 4.5 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide equivalent every year. The study highlights previous estimates varying from 1 to 2 Gt per year, suggesting that the new estimates are higher because, as well as, direct emissions from air travel, they also included indirect emissions. These include emissions from food production for tourists eating on holiday, hotel maintainence, and souvenirs. In 2013 this added an extra 1 to 2 gigatonnes.

See my previous Travindy article in June 2019, on the UK’s legal commitment to a net zero GHG target by 2050 – the first G7 nation to do so.

UK parliamentary inquiry on sustainable tourism opens
The UK was the first G7 nation to legislate an commitment to a net zero GHG target by 2050.

Terms of reference for the inquiry on sustainable tourism

The Committee is inviting written evidence submissions on any, or all, of the following areas to inform its inquiry:

  • What can the Government do to support a sustainable inbound tourism industry in the UK?
  • How should the UK tourism industry balance the need to encourage tourism whilst protecting fragile environments?
  • How well is the UK industry managing the impact of tourism in line with its obligations under the sustainable development goals, at home and abroad?
  • Should the UK Government take more responsibility for the impacts of outbound tourism, for example waste and resource management, protecting habitats and species and community and cultural impacts?
  • How can the Government reach its net zero emissions targets through influencing sustainable travel patterns? Is there a role for offsets in sustainable tourism?
  • Where should the balance lie between affordable travel and influencing sustainable travel choices? Are taxes and incentives needed?
  • How effective are sustainable tourism practices by large tourism companies such as cruise ship and package holiday operators?
UK parliamentary inquiry on sustainable tourism opens

Submit your written evidence

Written submissions should be made by 5pm on Friday 13 September 2019 via the UK Parliamentary inquiry submission form.

A useful set of guidance on giving evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee can be downloaded here.

UK parliamentary inquiry on sustainable tourism opens
Catherine Wilson
Catherine Wilson
Catherine Wilson is a sustainability-focused social researcher and communications’ professional, and journalist. Her consultancy includes social, market and policy research, evaluating corporate CSR programmes, and developing content marketing and communications. Catherine oversaw the technical management of the ABTA hotel certification service, Travelife, and was formerly Sustainability Business Writer, and Managing Editor, at Thomson-Reuters and Haymarket Media Group. Catherine has a social research PhD in Human Geography, from Kings College London, and a MSc in EU Environmental Policy and Regulation, which included tourism, from Lancaster University. Consultancy website:

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