The positive and negative impacts of travel on destinations

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What if sustainability in travel could be addressed by charging more to affluent sections of society? A radical solution to addressing some of the issues around mass tourism and the impact on destinations, perhaps, but one that would at very least get people to take notice.

The concept was suggested by broadcaster and adventurer Ben Fogle, who acknowledged that it might not seem fair but that we all need to recognize the impact we have on destinations.

“It’s about travelers taking personal responsibility,” Fogle said. “We as tourists have to be aware of the impact we are having, and I’m amazed at how many people who are not.”

While he hopes that travel remains inclusive, he said we all travel a bit too much and the cost is a “bit too cheap and we need to change that” to meet sustainability goals.

“I actually think there could be a sliding scale according to how much we earn,” Fogle added.

And it’s not the first time radical solutions have been raised to boost sustainability efforts, with Jeremy Sampson, CEO of The Travel Foundation, suggesting the billions of dollars invested in travel marketing could be put to better use. 

Fogle, meanwhile, was speaking at the launch of a report from Economist Impact and Booking.com on the impact of visitors on destinations. 

The “Destination always” report looks into how overnight stays impact the environment, people and economy across 38 cities and 12 more rural areas.

Key findings of the study include that 80% of policymakers and 62% of the general public think visitors to their regions have increased the local cost of living — though it’s only in “tourism-intensive destinations” that the report draws a correlation between visitors and local rental prices.

Visitors also can positively impact the economic growth of destinations by creating demand for goods and services and encourage the development of local infrastructure, Economist Impact added.

That view was held by 91% of policymakers, 81% of business executives and 79% of the general public across three surveys in the report. 

But how much a destination can benefit from the money spent by visitors depends on economic leakage — when money spent in a destination doesn’t stay there. To mitigate some of the leakage, Economist Impact proposes policies to develop “local entrepreneurship, production and human capital.”

Examples of those policies include increased sourcing of local products; training for the local workforce; streamlined infrastructure planning and construction processes; and tourism taxes to benefit local communities.

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