IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Services play an increasing role in the economy of developed and developing countries world wide. Environmental considerations should be incorporated in the decision making process and daily operations of the service sector as well.
This applies particularly to tourism, one of the world's most important economic sectors and one of the most dynamic as well. This trend will develop even further as many countries world wide consider tourism as a fast track to economic prosperity and an important source of foreign exchange earnings, employment, and an alternative to declining traditional industries.
Tourism, however, in its various components - transport, accommodation, leisure - is also a huge consumer of natural resources: land, specially sensitive areas such coastal zones and mountains, water, which can be a critical factor in many destination, and energy. The tourism sector produces as well solid and liquid wastes and emissions.
Even if in the tourism sector some progress has already been achieved due to regulations and standards, to pro-active approaches by the industry and to tourists' heightened awareness, there is still great potential for progress, compared to other industrial sectors.
Recognition, anticipation and monitoring of environmental impacts and the adoption of environmental good practice are necessary to speed up this process.
A RESPONSIBLE APPROACH TO TOURISM DEVELOPMENT AND MANAGEMENT
An environmentally sound tourism policy may only be attained by a cooperative effort of all parties involved, although each will have its own role to play.
But, who are the partners and stakeholders involved in tourism and what is each one's role?
The Tourism industry
Governments - at the central and local levels - can play a fundamental role by creating a favourable working environment by: providing tourist operators with baseline data, carrying out inventories of existing natural resources and highlighting sensitive issues; improving territorial planning, in particular in sensitive areas such as coastlines and mountains and protecting sensitive areas; defining appropriate regulations for water, energy resources and standards for effluent discharges and waste production; avoiding over-exploitation of resources also by defining the carrying capacity levels of resources, increasing the price of natural resources, incorporating where possible environmental social costs; taking into consideration critical sectors such as transportation which plays a major role not only in generating environmental damage but also in determining which areas will experience an increase in tourism pressure; helping the industry in the application of the different solutions; influencing consumers' patterns and their behaviour by, for example, imposing taxes, offering incentives for using particular means of transportation or accommodation structures, or by simply informing tourists of the real advantages and disadvantages of consuming a particular type of tourism, through information campaigns and introducing the tourism sector at the schooling level; playing a catalyst role in increasing community cooperation and dialogue between the different partners and stakeholders.
THE TOURISM INDUSTRY
Tourism Industry operators can: minimize the use of natural resources by increasing the rate of Eco-efficiency by "producing more from less". Eco-efficiency can be achieved by reducing the material and energy intensity of the service - using less energy and raw material and maximizing the sustainable use of renewable resources. The benefits will not only be experienced for the environment, but also for business by cutting costs and eventually avoiding potential environmental liabilities. Thus, it is a prerequisite to the long-term sustainability of business; minimize environmental impacts, adopting Cleaner Production technologies which reduce or eliminate impacts on the host environment, and introducing more efficient housekeeping procedures; identify the critical issues and solutions, carrying out Environmental Impact Assessments and Ecoaudits, which need further development in the tourism sector; guarantee continuous follow-up and monitoring, because any implemented action will not be completely effective unless it is assessed against indicators and its implementation is monitored. Adopting the appropriate management tools, such as Corporate Environmental Reporting and Environmental Management Systems.
NON GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS
Non governmental organizations may be quite successful in changing consumers' preferences and practices, in particular by making sensitive issues public and highlighting problematic areas. Furthermore, they have also the capacity of influencing industry practices and decisions.
Many NGOs have already obtained major achievements in modifying consumers' preferences and behaviour and in increasing their awareness and educational level with great positive results. An example is the "Blue Flag" campaign, conducted by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe, which contributed to the improvement in the quality of European coastlines.
United Nations Environment Programme - Industry and Environment
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