The latest science is clear. Climate action needs to step up drastically.
This also affects tourism. As we have seen at the Glasgow COP26, the tourism sector is beginning to grapple with climate change as a significant factor in its future.
However, whilst the need for change is sinking in, the magnitude of the change is not.
This is not uncommon. Humans always tend to address small things instead of tackling the more fundamental ones.
Some might call this window-dressing. For others it is everyday psychology. We go for low-hanging fruit first, incremental change or nudging, rather than completely redesigning the system (or ourselves).
This has long been recognised in the concept of ‘leverage points’ developed by Donella Meadows 20 years ago.
The concept of levers explores what types of changes are ‘shallow’ (easier to implement but not so effective) and what changes are ‘deeper’ (much harder to do but more effective in addressing the problem or challenge).
We know a lot of the easy ones for tourism and climate change, such as changing light bulbs, reusing towels, or perhaps driving a smaller car.
We know less about the more tricky ones.
Looking at the tourism system then, what types of changes or pathways do we need to consider to work our way from the shallower to the deeper leverage points?
In our paper we use Vanuatu as a case study to look at the ‘tourism system’ and the climate action that is either already happening there now or could happen in future by building on existing efforts or trends.
Vanuatu experienced fast-growing tourism before COVID-19, especially from cruise ships. While the foreign exchange earnings were welcome, growing arrival numbers had started to cause problems, especially in the smaller islands that were not prepared for an influx of visitors and everything they bring.
These problems are being recognised now in new tourism strategies that reflect an approach that balances tourism growth, community prosperity, and its effects, including its effects on the climate.
These new tourism sector strategies already employ leverage points that are deeper than what was seen previously.
For addressing climate concerns, especially deep levers need to be employed.
The seven leverage points identified in our study are (see full article for expanded sections):
- Climate engagement
- Climate finance
- Working with nature
- Dedicated research
- Local participation
- Redefine tourism’s goal
- Shift the paradigm
Tourism is currently on a journey towards employing ever deeper leverage points.
For those who want to participate in the ‘tourism of the future’, it might be worthwhile thinking about where they sit on the spectrum of transformation, and for how long they can afford to continue operating with yesterday’s goals and values.
This “GT” Insight is based on a paper by the authors entitled “Leverage points to address climate change risk in destinations” that was published online on November 30, 2021 by the journal Tourism Geographies.
This is an excerpt from an article by Johanna Loehr and Susanne Becken, originally published by The ‘Good Tourism’ Blog.