Tourism worldwide is on the increase, particularly in developing and transition economies. Over the last 20 years, the number of arrivals in international tourismTourism arrivals are the number of arrivals of international inbound tourists staying at least one night.
more has doubled. Arrivals in developing economies increased on average by 5.5 per cent and in transition economies by 6.9 per cent each year, as compared to 2.6 per cent in developed economies (UNCTAD calculations based on World Bank, 2016). For the group of developing countries as a whole, a significant impact of international tourism on total output cannot be recorded. International tourism receiptsInternational tourism receipts are expenditures by international inbound visitors, including payments to national carriers for international transport.
more in proportion to gross domestic product (GDP) remained around 2 per cent over the last 20 years, with slightly higher rates only between 2000 and 2005. Some individual countries/territories, however (primarily small islands), developed their tourism industries into important fundaments of their economies (see figure 8.8).
In Aruba, Maldives and Palau, the expenditures of international tourists now account for more than one half of GDP, and in Bahamas, Cabo Verde, Curaçao, Seychelles and Vanuatu they account for more than a quarter. This is often the result of a strong expansion of the tourism sector during recent years. For example, in Cabo Verde, Maldives and Palau, 10 years ago the rate of international tourist expenditures to GDP was less than half what it is today. Several case studies suggest there are positive spillover effects from the tourism industry to other sectors, with positive effects for local employment and public services (United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 2012). Dynamic international tourism industries can be found in some non-island developing economies, such as Lebanon, Rwanda or Yemen, as well as in some transition economies, notably Albania, Armenia, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. However, as these developments are constrained to single, often small, economies, around 95 per cent of the population in developing and transition economies live in countries in which receipts from international tourism amount to less than 5 per cent relative to national GDP (UNCTAD calculations based on World Bank, 2016).
A downside of tourism can be seen in ecological and environmental damage. Tourism is estimated to account for 5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Its impact on radiative forcing, a measure of the change in the balance between incoming and outgoing energy in the earth’s atmosphere, is suspected to be much higher (UNEP and UNWTO, 2012). This is not only due to the sheer increase in the volume of tourism worldwide, but also to changes in the way people travel. The trend is to travel farther and over shorter periods of time, and preference is given to energy-intensive modes of transportation, such as airplane and car, over train and coach.
Furthermore, tourism is often connected with excessive water consumption, discharge of untreated water, generation of waste, damage to biodiversity and threats to local cultures, built heritage and traditions. A number of initiatives are under way to make tourism more sustainable. Examples consist of energy- and water-saving programmes implemented by large hotel chains, raising awareness among consumers on the unfavourable effects of their travels, promotion of tourist destinations at which sustainability can be better ensured, and introduction of internationally recognized standards, such as the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (UNEP and UNWTO, 2012). Measuring the success of those measures on lowering tourism’s negative effects on the environment will be an important task for the Sustainable Development Goal monitoring framework. The development and implementation of tools to measure the impact of tourism on unsustainable development, such as Tourism Satellite Accounts (UNSD et al., 2010), deserve a sustainable development target in their own right.