With global middle class growing and getting more affluent, international travel becoming cheaper and more affordable, and on-the-click-of-the-mouse availability of subsidised accommodations like Airbnb, there has been a phenomenal increase in the domestic and international trips taken and the number of tourists visiting worldwide each year. This excessive number of tourists at a particular destination not only damages the local environment, habitat, ecosystem and historical sites but also impacts the quality of life its citizens negatively. The authorities remain in a conundrum as to how to manage the burgeoning tourists without impacting the economic benefits it imparts to the destination but growing resentment against rising tourists number has become palpable among the residents.
Tourists contribute to climate change every time they travel on aeroplanes, take a train or make a purchase and consume. As per a study by the World Tourism Organisation, the number of international tourists arrival worldwide has reached over 1.4 billion in the last couple of years and by 2050, it is expected to reach 3 billion! Since tourism is growing rapidly, carbon footprints also expand. 8 per cent of total greenhouse gases emission globally is attributable to tourism. This has made the tourism sector a bigger polluter than the construction industry. 75 per cent of the sector’s emission is generated by transport activities. As the economies around the world continue to grow, more and more people are taking holidays abroad, often multiple times a year. The tourists holiday, relax and eat more than what they eat at home and produce heaps of waste too. There has been a growing protest against tourists in cities like Barcelona, Spain, anti-tourist activities leading to violence have been reported. They feel tourists are destroying their cities. Tourists also bring pollution with them. Many cities around the world have been affected by Overtourism. In 2019, Venice saw one of the worst floods ever which have been partially attributed to climate change caused by tourism. Most of the European countries were also lashed with deadly heatwaves in July 2019.
Overtourism, coupled with ongoing climate change, will lead to a further boost in greenhouse gas emissions. Our world leaders and policymakers now need to plan out for a world when the resources decline and population continues to grow. Climate adaptation strategies are required. A framework is needed which includes tourists and tourism bodies which can work together for attaining common goals of protecting the environment, reducing consumption of plastics and addressing the climate change. This is the idea behind sustainable tourism. Reducing the number of trips could be one way to help check the carbon footprint. Responsible travellers should avoid overconsumption and heavy energy activities. A vacation on a cruise may sound exciting, but a cruise carrying a town-sized capacity does much more damage to the cities and its environment. Choosing airlines with newer and energy-efficient aircraft fleets could be another way to contribute to reducing emission and so does vacationing in a low season. A lot of our planet remains under-visited. Visiting such places would not only reduce some burden off the most touristy places but it will also boost the economy of these less visited place. To curb the emissions generated by the tourism sector, we need decisive actions on sustainable tourism else we risk losing jobs, local ecosystem, and businesses because of regular floods, droughts, heatwaves, fires, hurricanes and other natural disasters.