For tourism to remain a valued part of the European economy and generate useful employment it must be sustainable: economically, socially, and environmentally. Sustainability influences consumer choice and political calculation: business must respond.

While illustrating its economic value is important, recognition of tourism’s potentially negative impacts is necessary. Anti-tourism sentiment is a risk to the industry even when unrepresentative of local opinion. Symbolic responses to perceived harm may bring short-term political benefit but can damage well-managed parts of the visitor economy. Cities change continually: there will always be winners and losers in the competition for local resources. We need an honest debate about the compromises and resources needed for tourism to develop in the interests of residents, visitors and business.

Europe remains a popular destination among a growing population of prospective visitors who can afford to travel. Crowding is likely. Sharing places and attractions with others who find them appealing is our common experience: how tourism can help to do it better will require creativity and determination.

What you need to know

  • Some of Europe’s destinations are struggling to cope with peak demand
  • Local regulation is particularly subject to anti-tourism sentiment
  • Travel trade business is not well understood, and is often not a priority

ETOA’s policy objectives

  • Better understanding and improved perception of tourism in Europe
  • Better destination management and product development
  • Support the development of a wide consensus in support of good practice

What we are doing

  • Working with destinations, industry partners and academic experts
  • Supporting market development of destination and product
  • Running events, contributing to debate, publishing materials

Environmental sustainability requires political will and subsequent action including large-scale investment. Mitigation by business and consumers through waste reduction and improved efficiency must be matched by improved infrastructure to enable more sustainable choices. Air quality targets drive traffic control but access for private coaches is increasingly restricted despite their low emissions and efficient use of road space.

Social sustainability relates to community continuity and identity, an emotive topic which polarises debate. Meanwhile, the scope for incremental improvement is clear: all destinations can optimise their capacity; most do not suffer from over-crowding and have excellent attractions and amenities. ETOA’s buyers are looking for new product; this matches destinations’ strategic requirement to diversify visitor flow.

Destinations and sustainability: addressing anti-tourism sentiment in cities. February 2019

How do destinations remain viable and desirable places to live, work and visit as visitor flows increase? This challenge faces us all, not just the tourism industry.

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