The travel and tourism sector uses up to 5.8% of global available freshwater, according to a new industry report released by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in collaboration with Accenture and Oxford Economics. “Travel and tourism, with its unique influence and global reach, is perfectly positioned to play a pivotal role in fostering sustainable water practices,” said Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO.
In a world where more than a quarter of people on the planet do not have access to safe drinking water and over half do not have safe sanitation services, how can the travel and tourism sector continue to grow while becoming more sustainable and promoting water access?
As #TravelAndTourism continues to grow, the sector’s water usage falls.💧📉— WTTC (@WTTC) December 7, 2023
WTTC’s Water Roadmap with @Accenture & @OxfordEconomics provides the sector with the necessary tools to set water targets, navigate towards sustainability.
Discover the report 👉 https://t.co/0d0lp25csb pic.twitter.com/vJ1PNoLfmQ
Water scarcity is a pressing global issue that requires collective action. With this report, we aim to inspire a transformative journey toward responsible water use and a regenerative future.”Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO
Fast growing sector
It’s important to note, in other sectors, water usage is much higher. For example agriculture and food accounts for up to 70% of global freshwater usage, but with travel and tourism one of the world’s fastest growing industries, the report’s authors are looking to highlight the importance of operating as sustainably as possible.
The question is, is it possible to achieve growth in the sector without seeing matching growth in water use? To answer this, the authors looked at Asia Pacific, Americas and the Middle East from 2010 to 2019. These regions saw their travel and tourism water usage increase during that time. This is, in theory, understandable as the period coincided with significant growth in international arrivals.
However, Europe and Africa also saw a yearly increase in international arrivals of “5% and 4% respectively” over the same period, but water use actually declined by 1% in those regions. How can lessons be taken from this reduction?
Two immediately important action points, the report recommends, are recognising interdependencies and assigning a monetary value to water risks.
Introducing the Water Management Action Framework, the report rejects a ‘one-size fits all’ solution, instead outlining four key steps and emphasising the vital need to reduce water footprint and build resilience across supply chains.
The tools for achieving that could range from artificial intelligence, generative AI and machine learning, to smart sensors and the Internet of Things, to blockchain and the metaverse. It’s clear the authors see technology and data as enablers in water stewardship efforts.