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This chapter examines the use of water in the tourism sector with the aim of highlighting how relevant the issue of water scarcity is to the sector. The most obvious connection to water is the fact that tourism development requires a reliable supply of good quality water. At the same time, tourism is a major user of water in certain places and contributes to water scarcity and water quality impairment, with serious social, economic and environmental repercussions. It is, therefore, extremely important to understand the nature of the problem in order to devise measures which can be used to promote the prudent use of water in the tourism sector. Despite a heightened academic and media interest in sustainable tourism in recent years, this has mostly concentrated on the contribution of carbon emissions from travel and accommodation to climate change.
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Book chapter “Water and Tourism”
Introduction
This chapter examines the use of water in the tourism sector with the aim of highlighting how
relevant the issue of water scarcity is to the sector. The most obvious connection to water is the fact
that tourism development requires a reliable supply of good quality water. At the same time,
tourism is a major user of water in certain places and contributes to water scarcity and water quality
impairment, with serious social, economic and environmental repercussions. It is, therefore,
extremely important to understand the nature of the problem in order to devise measures which can
be used to promote the prudent use of water in the tourism sector. Despite a heightened academic
and media interest in sustainable tourism in recent years, this has mostly concentrated on the
contribution of carbon emissions from travel and accommodation to climate change. Water use in
the tourism sector remains a seriously understudied area (Gössling 2005) and this is highlighted by
the fact that there have been very few studies to date on the topic.
The chapter is structured in a way which allows an overview of the literature on water use in the
tourism sector to be put into the context of general water scarcity and sustainable water use in other
sectors of the economy. The issue of global water scarcity is firstly discussed before touching on the
different ways in which water is used by the tourism sector in popular tourist destinations. The
chapter then looks at the consequences of current use by the sector and how these are having an
impact on local water resources. The section which follows then looks at how the future
development and growth of the sector along with impacts of climate change could induce changes
in the way water is managed in certain destinations, especially those which are likely to face
increased water shortages. The final sections examine some of the measures which have been
effectively employed to encourage sustainable use of water in tourist destinations and also
emphasise how a better understanding of the nature of the problem could eventually lead to the
appropriate solutions.
2
Global water scarcity current and future outlook
Having access to clean, abundant water constitutes one of the fundamental pillars for any
civilisation. Water is a vital necessity for everyday needs such as drinking, washing and cooking
and is also, most importantly, required for growing the food that we depend on for survival and for
economic development (Chenoweth 2008). In most of the developed world, where we have been
accustomed to readily available water through our taps, water is a resource which the majority of us
take for granted. However, with nearly 1.2 billion people around the world still lacking guaranteed
access to water and more than 2.6 billion without adequate sanitation, many countries find
themselves in the midst of a global water crisis which seriously threatens the pursuit of goals such
as development and poverty reduction (Jacobson and Tropp 2010). It would appear that, at present,
there is enough water on a global scale to satisfy human needs, as withdrawals only currently
account for less than 10% of the available renewable freshwater resources (Oki and Kanae 2006).
Nevertheless, global water resources are very unequally distributed in space and time (Postel et al.
1996). Some parts of the globe are naturally blessed with abundant water whereas others are located
in arid or semi-arid zones of the world. Moreover, the precipitation regime in many places is
characterised by a short rainy season followed by a long dry season. Another limiting factor to
exploiting all available water resources is that not all the water is fit for human purposes due to
pollution from human activities, which compromises the quality of the water available downstream.
Water scarcity is, however, not only the result of water shortage in the physical sense. In many
developing countries, lack of access to water is compounded by insufficient funds, inadequate
infrastructure, poor governance, corruption and inability to provide water of decent quality. In most
cases, water scarcity is a combination of first order (physical) scarcity and second order scarcity
(implying poor water management) (Ohlsson and Turton 1999). Furthermore, it is often extremely
difficult to assess whether water scarcity is caused by insufficient supply or excess demand
(Rijsberman 2006). Similarly to the supply of water which varies in space and time around the
globe, human demand for water also varies in different places, as it is a factor of societal values and
human behaviour (Molle and Mollinga 2003). Although scarcity often arises due to a combination
of different causes, most societies facing water scarcity have options available to them in order to
address their problems (UN-Water 2006). What is often lacking, however, are the resources and the
appropriate incentives to implement these options.
The water situation is likely to become even worse in the future. Ongoing climatic change will,
most certainly, have a severe impact on water supplies in many parts of the world. Climate change
is expected to threaten the reliability of both the quantity and quality of water supplies by stretching
the current variability in the climate, through an intensification of extremes such as droughts and
floods (World Water Assessment Programme 2009). According to the latest IPCC report, it is in the
areas which are already suffering from water scarcity where precipitation is expected to decrease
and evaporation to increase the most (Kundzewicz et al. 2007). Furthermore, as depicted in figure 1,
there is a complex interconnectedness between processes such as climate, land use, demand for food
and water resources. This means that non-climatic drivers such as population growth, economic
development, technological advances and lifestyle changes are also likely to have a huge impact on
water withdrawals and the way in which we manage this precious resource (Sophocleous 2004; UN-
Water 2010), possibly to an even greater extent compared to climatic changes (Vorosmarty et al.
2000). Over the past one hundred years, population has quadrupled whereas water use has increased
sevenfold, indicating a general trend according to which a wealthier world has also become thirstier
(UNDP 2006). The strategies for mitigating against or adapting to the continuous increase in the
demand for fresh water will play an important part in domestic and international politics in coming
years will also affect own choices as individuals (Black et al. 2010).
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Figure 1. Interplay between different factors and their effect on freshwater resources
(after Oki, 2005 in Kundzewicz et al., 2007).
Fresh water use is usually divided into three main sectors of the economy: domestic, industrial and
agricultural. Agriculture is globally by far the largest user with a 70% share of all water
withdrawals, whereas industry accounts for 19% with the remaining 11% coming from household
use (FAO 2011). As global averages, these figures tend to be biased towards countries with high
water withdrawals and hide significant differences between countries. They do, however, point to
the fact that a huge amount of the water abstracted is used in the production of food. The volume of
water required to grow, produce and package agricultural commodities has been given the name
‘virtual water’ (Allan 1996). Most of this virtual water is not even present in the final version of a
product since it has been evaporated during production. This concept has been used to establish the
notion of a ‘water footprint’(Hoekstra 2003) which, similar to the concept of carbon footprint, has
been used to calculate water use on an international (Chapagain and Hoekstra 2004, Hoekstra and
Chapagain 2007) or corporate scale (Ercin et al. 2011) and to suggest potential ways in which water
savings can be achieved. Diets rich in meat and dairy products, for example, are associated with
much higher water footprints because of the large amounts of feed crops, drinking water and service
water required by the animals but this also varies from place to place depending on climate and
agricultural efficiency (Hoekstra and Chapagain 2008). The water footprint concept has highlighted
the fact that an overwhelming majority of global water use takes place in the agricultural stages and
this, in turn, has highlighted the fact that consumers and manufacturers will need to become more
engaged in the agricultural stages of production (Ridoutt et al. 2009).
The tourism sector is a major consumer of water in certain popular tourist destinations, putting
further stress on water resources in regions already suffering from some form of water scarcity.
However, this is not always evident from official water use statistics. The water footprint concept
offers a very useful way to consider both the quantity and nature of water use in the tourism sector.
The annual water footprint of a consumer or industry is defined as the sum of the virtual water
content of all the products consumed (supply-chain footprint) and the additional water directly
consumed for drinking, washing, cooking (operational footprint) (Hoekstra et al. 2009). Similarly to
any business or economic sector, tourism consumes significant volumes of water and has both a
supply-chain and an operational footprint, drawing water directly from the domestic water (used in
hotels and other accommodation facilities) and, indirectly from the agricultural sector (through food
and beverage consumption). The indirect component of water use in the tourism sector has yet to be
considered in any detail in either policy or academic research.
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Water demand from tourism impacts on local water resources.
According to (Gössling 2002), the lack of research on the topic may be due to a lack of available
data which does not allow academics and policymakers to make reliable calculations of water
consumption from tourism. Another reason why this may be the case is that the overall impact of
tourism on a global scale appears to be negligible as water use by tourism only amounts to 0.04% of
the total water withdrawals (Gössling 2005). Compared to the aforementioned figures for
agriculture, industry and domestic water use these figures can would appear to be negligible.
Nevertheless, these figures do not capture differences between tourist destinations. Tourism can be
responsible for up to 16.9% of domestic water use in island states like Cyprus (Gössling 2006),
which corresponds to 5% of the total mean annual water use (Savvides et al. 2001). Furthermore,
even in places where tourism uses a significant percentage of the water, the use of water by the
tourist sector may be very seasonal in nature, meaning that the annual figures mask the actual stress
exerted from the tourist sector on local water resources. Conflict over water resources during the
peak tourism period is not uncommon, especially in drought years when local residents and farmers
have restricted access to water while the supply to tourist establishments remains unaffected
(Holden 2000). As a high value user of water where a single day of insufficient water supply could
severely affect the public image and reputation of any tourist destination, tourism almost always
takes priority over other uses.
Part of the reason why tourist use of water resources can create stress and conflict is proven by
studies which have calculated average daily per capita consumption in tourist accommodation,
which have shown tourists tend to use considerably more water on average compared to the
domestic population (Essex et al 2004; Gössling 2005; Emmanuel and Spence 2009). Estimates of
tourist water use in the Mediterranean range from 300 to 850 l/capita/day (De Stefano 2004). As a
means of comparison, the global average in domestic water consumption is around 161 l/capita/day
but this varies widely between countries and also tends to vary seasonally (FAO, 2009). Especially
in developing countries where the national per capita use is low, the difference between local and
tourist consumption tends to be huge. A study by Gössling (2001) showed that average per capita
daily water use in hotels in Zanzibar corresponds to around 15 times the daily per capita demand
from the local population. This understandably raises issues of inequity since tourism, being a
higher value user than the local population, is given priority over water resources. Added to this is
the fact that most of the tourists come from developed temperate countries where water is abundant.
They, therefore, often have no idea of how their water use compares to that of the local population.
When in ‘holiday mode’ and in the absence of financial incentives to promote prudent use, pro-
environmental behaviour tends to be very unlikely (Miller et al. 2010).
However, these averaged figures detract from the fact that water used by tourism also varies
enormously depending on the accommodation and the recreation facilities pursued. Despite the
general consensus that tourists use more water compared to local residents, it is also apparent that
the tourism sector is extremely diverse in terms of both the amounts and the specific uses of water
demand (Kotios et al. 2009, Rico-Amoros et al. 2009). The general pattern would appear to be that
increased luxury leads to increased water consumption in hotels and other types of accommodation,
both as a result of the facilities offered but also the density of the accommodation. Mass tourism, so
often associated with its negative aesthetic impact on the landscape, actually registers much lower
consumptions per capita compared to so-called ‘quality tourism’, due, mainly, to inherent
efficiencies in the distribution systems of densely constructed apartment and hotel complexes which
remain in operation for most of the year (Rico-Amoros et al. 2009). Gössling (2001) reports an
exponential growth in water use with increasing hotel size due, mainly, to larger pools and larger
gardens which require extensive irrigation. This is supported by a study of the hotel sector in
5
Barbados, where annual consumption showed a strong positive correlation with the number of
employees working for a hotel which reflects both the absolute size and the service level of the
hotel (Charara et al. 2010). Gardens, water parks, swimming pools and golf courses are all popular
tourist attractions but are also extremely water intensive. The presence of a swimming pool on the
premises of a hotel can lead to an average increase in per capita guest consumption of around 60
l/c/d (Kotios et al. 2009) whereas a golf course is estimated to use around 1 million cubic metres per
year which corresponds to the water consumption of a city with 12000 inhabitants (WWF Spain
2003, cited in De Stefano 2004).
As previously mentioned, water use in tourism is highly seasonal, with many destinations
experiencing extremely high water demand during the summer holiday period. In the Mediterranean
region, which is the world’s leading holiday destination and where most countries suffer from some
form of water scarcity, the climate is characterised by marked seasonality in precipitation with the
majority of the rainfall falling during the winter months (Kent et al. 2002), as this is the only period
where the polar jet stream penetrates into the subtropical zone creating unstable conditions. The
summer period is dominated by anticyclonic (high pressure) conditions which create stable
conditions in the atmosphere and give rise to sunny weather. At the same time, tourists are attracted
to Mediterranean resorts largely because of the warm and sunny climate (Holden 2008), with
summer months being the most popular. Statistics from different areas of the Mediterranean such as
the Provence-Côte d'Azur region in France, the Cyclades island group in Greece and the Costa
Brava in Spain show that the population in tourist resorts can increase more than ten fold during
certain times of the year (De Stefano 2004). As a result, water demand often surpasses water
availability during the summer months (Gikas and Angelakis 2009). As tourism on a global level
tends to shift water consumption from water-rich to water-poor areas (Gössling 2006), it is the
added stress on water resources at the destination which really matters, as the water saved in the
source regions cannot compensate for overuse of local water resources in the destination regions.
Summer resorts are, therefore, usually forced to rely on groundwater, surface water stored in dams
or transported from more humid parts of the island or country as well as non-conventional, energy-
hungry resources such as desalination and, to a lesser extent, treated wastewater. Added to the
temporal aspect of the problem, there is also the fact that tourism tends to concentrate in coastal
areas, which adds further stress to local water supplies. Within small islands, coastal regions often
have comparatively low precipitation totals compared to areas at higher altitude (Kent et al. 2002).
The problem is even worse in places where local residents also tend to live along the coast. This is
very common in Caribbean islands such as Jamaica and Barbados (Goodwin and Walters 2007).
Although water demand from the tourist industry is characteristically seasonal in nature, tourism
can often lead to a permanent increase in water demand for facilities and leisure structures (Iglesias
et al. 2007).
Where unsustainable pumping of groundwater takes place, this can create water quality problems
due to saltwater intrusion (where saline water from the sea is drawn into the aquifer). The main
cause for this phenomenon is groundwater over-abstraction for public water supply (Nixon et al.
2003), a large proportion of which comes from tourism in certain areas. This can be a huge problem
in islands with very permeable geology, where groundwater is the only conventional source of
water (Kent et al. 2002, Sapiano 2008, Manoli et al. 2004). Water quality impairment of
groundwater and surface water also results from significant increases in sewage effluents due to the
very high population densities. Contamination of rivers and estuaries are common problems,
particularly where sewage receives no treatment, with severe impacts for the ecology. Pollution of
aquifers and coastal waters from fertilisers and herbicides used on golf courses and hotel gardens is
another frequent problem (Holden 2000, Shaalan 2005).
6
Growth in tourism is often associated with a water demand multiplier effect as tourism has close
linkages to other sectors of the economy (Emmanuel and Spence 2009). One such sector is
agriculture. As explained in the previous section, apart from the water used in accommodation
facilities and activities such as swimming pools and golf courses, tourists also consume local
agricultural products. Approximately one-third of all tourist expenditure is used to buy food (Torres
2003, Gössling et al. 2010), meaning that the summer increases in population in certain resorts
significantly increases the demand for food which is either produced locally or has to be imported.
Depending on the products required and their associated water requirements, local resources could
suffer even more as a result of tourism. What makes the situation even more complicated is that,
due to the manner in which water resources are currently managed, an increase in water demand
only usually appears to be associated with the domestic and agricultural sectors, with no indication
of the demand from tourism. On the other hand, creating linkages between tourism and agriculture
provides an opportunity to enhance the benefits of tourism to the local community if the food is
produced locally (Telfer and Wall 1996). Any attempts to boost local production and reduce
economic leakage could, nevertheless, backfire if too much pressure is put onto local water
resources.
7
Future tourism development and climate change
There is no doubt that tourism is already having significant impacts on water resources in water
scarce areas, with climate change and further tourist development expected to exacerbate the
problem even further in the not-so-distant future. Promoting prudent water use thus becomes a
prerequisite if tourism is to become environmentally sustainable. It is also required to enable
projected growth of the tourist sector as environmental changes could ultimately diminish the
attractiveness of certain destinations (Gössling 2002). Tourism arrivals worldwide are expected to
increase by an annual growth rate of 3% over the period 1995-2020 (Becken and Hay 2007).
Currently over 70% of international arrivals originate from Europe and North America (UNWTO
2010) but an increased number of travellers from emerging economies such as China and India is
likely to add further stress on resources in existing popular destinations and potentially open up new
destinations. (Perry 2005) sees endemic water scarcity as a very likely future scenario in many
popular tourist destinations, which could lead to rising tension between local people and tourist
authorities. Increased stress from both tourism and climate change could eventually make certain
destinations extremely water stressed, to the extent that further growth in their tourist industries will
not be possible (Becken and Hay 2007). This is unless the tourist industry in these places invests
heavily in the development of non-conventional water resources such as desalination and treated
wastewater. This is not possible everywhere due to a lack of resources and proximity to the sea and
also has significant implications for carbon emissions associated to tourism, which are increasingly
becoming the focus in academic research (Chenoweth 2009, Gössling et al. 2010b).
Although making accurate long-term regional projections of tourist arrivals is fraught with
uncertainty (due, mainly, to our inability to model future political stability and tourist preferences),
some regions come out as consistently robust with regards to the potential impacts of both climate
change and future tourism development. Figure 2 shows the regions identified as hotspots (areas
likely to face the most severe consequences as a result of climate change) by the World Tourism
Organization (Scott et al. 2008). Water scarcity is likely to be an important issue in all five hotspot
areas and could become one of the limiting factors for further tourism development, with severe
economic consequences in formerly popular destinations (Gössling 2006, Essex et al. 2004), such as
the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, it still remains extremely hard to predict how
climate change is likely to influence the relationship between tourist numbers and water availability
at a given location, due to the interplay of several possible feedback loops. Areas such as the
Mediterranean could become unpopular during the summer months as temperatures will not allow
tourists (especially those from northern European countries who are not accustomed to such high
temperatures) to venture outside safely (Perry 2005, 2006). A smaller number of tourist arrivals in
the height of summer could be good news with regards to water consumption but there could still be
less water available overall if precipitation decreases significantly. Furthermore, a reduction in
summer arrivals does necessarily equate to a decrease in mean annual tourist numbers as it could be
compensated by increased tourist arrivals during the rest of the year. On the other hand, climate
change in the home countries of tourists should also be considered in any modeling exercise which
attempts to look at possible future changes in tourist arrivals. More favourable conditions at home
coupled with increasing awareness of the environmental impacts of flying or travelling long
distances could lead to tourists opting to stay in their home countries during their holidays.
Decisions to diversify or expand the tourist product offered at a destination are also likely to dictate
future water demand from the sector. Many destinations in the Mediterranean which originally
became known as mass tourist resorts have been looking to diversify their facilities in recent years
in order to attract ‘luxury tourists’. According to the European Golf Owner Association, there is,
presently, a tendency towards golf development which is apparent in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya,
8
Egypt, Turkey, Greece Italy and Cyprus (Tourism Concern 2011). As explained in the previous
section, luxury tourism is very often associated with higher per capita tourist water use. This
implies that an overall reduction in tourist numbers does not necessarily mean that water demand
will also decrease. The fact that diversification and upgrading of the tourist product is actually
encouraged as a means of climate change adaptation is indicative of the serious information and
knowledge gap on the topic of water use in the tourist sector (Hof and Schmitt 2011), Another
ongoing trend in the Mediterranean is an increase in the number of second homes, which have long
been recognised as an important extra form of stress for water demand that is, however, extremely
hard to quantify and often eludes official statistics (Statzu and Strazzera 2011; Hof and Schmitt
2011) as private dwellings are not classified as tourist accommodation. Even a decision to invest in
agrotourism can have important repercussions for water use. An example of a country which has
invested heavily in agrotourism in recent years is Jamaica. Large papaya and banana planatations,
rum distilleries and coffee plantations are all heavily involved in tourism as tourists consider many
of the local products to be essential export items (Lew et al. 2008). This implies that agricultural
water management is a crucial aspect of water use efficiency in the tourism sector in this case. Any
decision to diversify or expand the tourist product offered at a destination must consider future
economic gains in relation to the effects on local water resources. This includes considering
environmental impacts as well as economic impacts for other water users.
9
Figure 2. Tourism destinations identified as hotspots. It is evident that water scarcity is likely to pose
serious problems in popular tourist regions such as the Mediterranean and the Caribbean (Source: Scott et al. 2008).
10
Possible future solutions and research priorities
Although the issue of water use in tourism is still not high up on the agenda in most
countries, there has been heightened interest in very recent years, owing to a growing
awareness of water issues worldwide. In a move which highlights the increased
concern of the tourism sector in water scarcity, the UNWTO became a member of
UN-Water (set up in 2003 in order to promote interest and co-operation in water-
related issues) in 2009. Spain has also recently become the first country to explicitly
consider the use of water footprint as a means of promoting sustainable tourism
(Llamas et al. 2010). Furthermore, in the UK, charities such as the ‘Travel
Foundation’ and ‘Tourism Concern’ are both trying to promote responsible water
management as part of sustainable tourism initiatives in different countries. As with
water scarcity in general, the best way forward is demand management. By making
tourism less water-intensive, significant water savings could potentially be realised.
This can only be achieved through a combination of changes in policy and legislation,
financial incentives such as taxation, behavioural changes and technological
innovations. Before implementing the right measures, there is still considerable work
to be done in order to improve our knowledge of what is an under-researched topic,
both on an academic and policy level.
Accurate knowledge is very much dependent on information and this requires a lot
more research and collection of data in order to allow for more reliable estimates of
the use of water in the tourist sector. A recent study in the Mediterranean highlights
the importance of having a sound knowledge of the quantitative impact of tourism on
water resources which can then be used to correctly inform local authorities and
tourism companies (Lootvoet and Roddier-Quefelec 2009). This should also include
water used to grow products eventually consumed by tourists as well as activities such
as golf, swimming pools and water parks. The water footprint concept is a potentially
very useful way of highlighting both the direct and indirect (in the form of virtual
water) use of water in the tourist sector. Especially where food consumed by tourists
is grown locally, the water used in the production must be explicitly accounted for.
Eurostat has suggested the need to reclassify golf under the tourism sector in order to
facilitate control over the source and quantity of water they consume (Tourism
Concern 2011). A common problem is that despite the fact that water use statistics for
different sectors of the economy are already collected by most water authorities, these
rarely explicitly indicate water use by the tourist sector. A way forward is perhaps
following the example of Tunisia, which has introduced separate tariffs for use of
water by the tourist sector (Lootvoet and Roddier-Quefelec 2009). This can
significantly facilitate the quantification of water demand from the sector.
Improved knowledge would eventually lead to governments, tour operators and
destination managers being more aware of the extent to which tourism impacts water
resources both directly and indirectly. This could then lead to the appropriate
legislation and incentives which as a first step should aim to address the direct use of
water in the industry. In the case of hotel managers and tour operators it is also
important to make it clear that there are also strong financial incentives to conserving
water (Deng and Burnett 2002). Hotel owners are often not aware of the positive
externalities which come about through saving on bills and also through safeguarding
the beauty of the natural landscape which is almost always the product on which
11
tourism is mostly reliant (Mouliérac and Thivet 2009). Small-scale infrastructure
improvements such as water-saving devices in showers and irrigation equipment
(Simpson et al. 2008) must be encouraged through studies showing how these
investments eventually pay back for themselves though saving in bills. An excellent
example is the Hilton LightStay Programme launched across Hilton hotels worldwide
to support the sustainability commitments of the company. The results from 2009
showed that properties using LightStay achieved a reduced energy use of 5 percent
and a reduced water use of 2.4 percent compared to 2008 which translates into
savings of more than 29 million dollars (Hilton Worldwide 2011). The Hilton
example also highlights the enormous potential in linking water savings to energy
savings. In terms of outdoor water use, which studies have shown to make up a huge
part of the total water demand in tourist facilities, use of plant species better adapted
to the local climate as well as use of pool covers and more extensive water reuse in
swimming pools should be encouraged through appropriate legislation and economic
incentives (Hof and Schmitt 2011). However, it is also important to realise that water
saving devices can only achieve their purpose if they are used alongside behavioural
changes.
Any attempt to promote prudent water use in tourism will also have to involve raising
public awareness on the issue of water scarcity, especially at destinations already
suffering from water shortage. Guest education is as important as employee
education. Increased public awareness could also lead to bottom-up pressure, whereby
tourists themselves pursue environmentally sustainable activities and demand that
tour operators offer sustainable options. Nevertheless, it is important that awareness is
based on sound knowledge of water issues. Recent research highlights a weak
understanding of the public with regards to how tourist activities relate to the
environment (Miller et al. 2010). This highlights that there is still a lot of work to be
done in getting tourists to understand how their actions are affecting local water
resources. This ultimately comes back to the need for a better knowledge of both the
quantitative and qualitative impacts of water use by the tourist industry in specific
destinations which, in turn, depends on collecting and combining the right data.
12
Chapter summary
This chapter has looked at the importance of considering water issues as part of a
broader attempt to promote sustainable tourism practices in existing and emerging
holiday destinations. Water scarcity is already a significant environmental problem
and current trends suggest that the situation is likely to get worse in the future due to
the combined pressures from population growth, economic development and climate
change. Despite the fact that water use in the tourism sector may appear to be dwarfed
by the use in other sectors such as agriculture when looking at average figures, the
spatial and temporal concentration of water use by tourism implies that unsustainable
use can still lead to severe depletion of local resources and conflict between tourist
facilities and local residents. Furthermore, tourism is expected to grow in coming
decades and some destinations are likely to experience increased water stress if
measures are not taken to make tourism more sustainable. Understanding the extent
and nature of the problem is the first step towards devising solutions to address it. The
development of the climate change debate will be instructive in helping the water
debate to advance more quickly. Improvements in the water use efficiency could also
be considered as part of climate change adaptation measures taken by the tourist
sector. Finally, an important prerequisite for a sustainable future is to create a
generation of environmentally aware tourists who will eventually demand that tour
operators and local owners of facilities encourage the prudent use of water as well as
other environmental resources.
13
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