JAYSON Westbury, chief executive AFTA

In support of this month’s issue of travelBulletin which is dedicated to sustainability in the travel and tourism industry, I offer a part transcript of a speech I delivered last year at the World Tourism Alliance (WTA) in Hangzhou, China.

“Travel and tourism is a foundation pillar of world peace and economic growth. It breaks down cultural barriers and allows communities to economically benefit in ways a century ago were not thought possible.

However, as many of us know… some of this success has been poorly managed with communities in Europe, Asia and the Pacific declaring 2018 as the year of peak tourism and the escalation of the overtourism movement.

In 2017 more than 1.3 billion people travelled internationally. Globally, the industry provided a $2.3 trillion contribution to global GDP and produced 109 million jobs. While these figures are extraordinary… what is just as impressive… is how far we have come in the last 70 years and why some communities are starting to feel the pinch of a growing tourism industry.

In 1950, 97% of the 25 million travellers visited either Europe or America. By 1990 total travel had risen to 442 million travellers. In 2017 that had risen to a new record of 1.3 billion travellers… but still 74% of these visitors visited the traditional destinations of Europe and America.

However, if we continue to grow at this rate and the majority of people continue to visit the traditional destinations… what does this mean for the communities that provide these destinations?

The idea of overtourism is currently the greatest threat to our industry. It is wrong to dismiss the concerns of local communities who have been impacted by poorly managed tourism hot spots as not relevant and the voice of a minority… because without the support of the community… no industry survives let alone grows.

Tourism cannot be a one-way discussion… limiting cultural exchange. Many tourism operators, local destinations and governments have viewed tourism though a single lens of economic growth… at the expense of all else. Governments around the world issue media releases celebrating the greater number of tourists to their destinations yet very few develop strategies to ensure the impact is mostly positive.

My challenge to us all is that perhaps overtourism is success — poorly managed. And what we all need to turn our minds to is how as an industry we don’t lose focus, we don’t lose the support of the people of the world and become an industry that people no longer want to be a part of.

We are a force for good — we are an industry who enriches peoples lives and provides life long memories through the experiences we create and offer and deliver, wherever in the world that might take place.”

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