Report reveals that even as travel and tourism grows, water use declines


Report reveals that even as travel and tourism grows, water use declines

The World Travel & Tourism Council ( WTTC ) today launched its groundbreaking new report, 'Travel & Tourism Water Roadmap', which reveals that the overall water intensity of global travel and tourism continues to decline as the sector continues to grow. 

Despite being one of the fastest growing sectors, accounting for one in 10 jobs globally and contributing 10.4% of global GDP in 2019, travel & tourism water use ranged from 3.5% to 5.8% of available freshwater globally, in 2021 and 2019, respectively.

While this is a smaller share than other key sectors, such as agriculture and food, which accounted for 70% of global water use, more work remains to be done, as increasing water scarcity has become one of the most pressing challenges to sustainable development. 

Today, more than 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water, while 4.2 billion do not have access to safe sanitation. Water is a vital natural resource that sustains life on Earth, making it an essential commodity that must be protected. 

The report highlights that further progress can be made if travel and tourism stakeholders take a number of actions and sustainable water practices are implemented globally.

In a collaborative effort, WTTC worked with Accenture and Oxford Economics to leverage their expertise in data analytics, best practices and proven methodologies, providing a framework to help the global travel and tourism sector set water targets, reduce its water footprint and increase water resilience. .

According to the research, from 2010 to 2019, Asia Pacific, the Americas and the Middle East saw their travel and tourism water use increase, while experiencing significant growth in international arrivals. Europe and Africa experienced an annual increase in international arrivals of 5% and 4% respectively between 2010 and 2019, but experienced a 1% decrease in water use over the same period.

This achievement highlights opportunities within the travel and tourism sector to further reduce water use and take further steps towards the SDG 6 targets of the global water action agenda.

Julia Simpson, president and CEO of WTTC, said, "Water scarcity is a pressing global issue that requires collective action. Travel & Tourism, with its unique influence and global reach, is perfectly positioned to play a pivotal role in promoting sustainable water practices. 

"With this report, we aim to inspire a transformative journey towards responsible water use and a regenerative future, accelerating progress towards achieving SDG 61."

Jesko-Philipp Neuenburg, Global Travel & Aviation Sustainability Leader at Accenture, said, "This new publication highlights the transformative power of data and technology to drive collaboration, inform decision-making, foster innovation and implement water resilience and reduction action plans.

"From artificial intelligence, generative AI and machine learning, smart sensors and IoT, to blockchain and the metaverse, technology and data are enablers of sustainability and can play an important role in sustainable water management efforts across the travel supply chain, while addressing security and privacy. and environmental risks. With global travel demand booming, now is the time for travel and tourism organizations to reinvent their efforts and create viable, impactful and responsible water strategies for this precious and finite resource."

As climate change amplifies extreme weather events, building resilience becomes not only strategic but vital to the long-term survival of the sector. Recognizing interdependencies and assigning a monetary value to water risks are now key steps to ensure that Travel & Tourism overcomes risks, meets stakeholder expectations and leads global water management. 

According to the global tourism body, amid emerging risks, adopting digital technologies becomes not only an option, but an innovative approach to address the complexity head-on.

It also presents the Framework for Action for Water Stewardship, rejecting a one-size-fits-all solution, outlining four key steps, emphasizing water footprint reduction and building resilience into supply chains.

Recognizing the vital role of travel and tourism, WTTC makes a resounding call for collective action to safeguard aquatic ecosystems. The framework can help guide travel and tourism stakeholders on the path to sustainability, emphasizing science-based targets, internal prioritization, adequate funding and collaborative action for a resilient future.

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The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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