World-wide, tourism is worth $US 7.2 trillion, which represents almost 10% of global GDP. While tourism depends heavily on the continuing flow of ecosystem services, including places for recreation such as beaches, reefs and forests, it can also place great strains on these fragile natural ecosystems.
Tourism represents a significant opportunity and challenge for sustainable development across some of the world’s most impoverished and ecologically vulnerable regions. This is reflected in a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (8, 9, 14 & 15) and in its declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) is leading the industry to adopt more sustainable practices, building on 25 years of research since the 1992 Rio Convention. One of today’s most critical challenges is to create destination based reporting standards that effectively integrate economic, social and environmental dimensions of local tourism impacts, to assess whether sustainable development principles are being effectively applied in practice.
The Measurement of Sustainable Tourism (MST) project was established by UNWTO in 2015. Since then they have relied on IDEEA Group to help establish and articulate MST work streams, and to facilitate engagement with a wide range of experts. IDEEA Group has been instrumental in the planning and delivery of key MST initiatives, including:
- Expert Group meeting on MST (October 2016), which engaged more than 50 interested countries, NGOs, international agencies and sustainable tourism experts http://statistics.unwto.org/wg_meeting
- Design of pilot studies and initial testing in Fiji http://www.statsfiji.gov.fj/statistics/economic-statistics/national-accounts-gdp-2
- Establishing a statistical MST framework that reflects and builds on existing research http://statistics.unwto.org/mst
The 6th International conference on tourism statistics to be held in June 2017 will focus on measuring sustainable tourism, and aims to secure ministerial level commitment to a Manila Declaration of MST principles. IDEEA Group will once again play a leading role to facilitate the success of this conference. http://asiapacific.unwto.org/event/6th-unwto-international-conference-tourism-statistics-measuring-sustainable-tourism
Applying SEEA principles to the integration of economic, social and environmental information to establish a statistical framework for MST at the local destination level has already delivered significant results in terms of participation and growing commitment from industry and government stakeholders at all levels.
Key tourism stakeholders are beginning to take MST principles into account, such as when planning transport infrastructure development, and for standardising and coordinating collection and publication of relevant data at the destination based level.
Another key outcome has been to provide a cross-functional platform for discussing the interactions and dependencies between economic and social development, environmental protection and mitigation of potential risks for the sustainable growth of tourism.
Finally, MST provides the potential to directly compare policy assumptions and outcomes across regions and countries, and so lead to more coordinated and equitable commitments to achieve sustainable development goals.