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Committee investigates environmental impact of travel and tourism

18 July 2019

The Environmental Audit Committee launches an inquiry into sustainable tourism, looking at both the impacts of tourism and travel on the environment and how these can be reduced.

Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world, accounting for ten percent of global GDP and just under ten percent of total employment. Done well, it can help economic growth, environmental protection and poverty alleviation.

However, the growth in international and domestic travel has caused pressure in terms of carbon emissions, resource management and can have negative impacts on local communities and cultural assets if not managed properly. This can lead to the physical degradation of popular sites and higher rents, congestion and air pollution in some cities. These pressures are known as ‘overtourism' and harm local communities and the visitor experience.

Travelling by plane or ship causes local air and water pollution, noise and greenhouse gas emissions. The tourism industry accounts for an estimated five per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The amended UK Climate Change Act includes aviation and shipping emissions in the new net zero target. The Committee will seek views on travel choices to inform the Government's forthcoming aviation strategy to 2050.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP, said:

“Now that summer is here, families are looking forward to a well-earned holiday. But when we book a cruise, flights or visit a popular tourist destination, it's easy to forget about the environmental impact our holidays are having.

“The recent cruise ship collision in Venice, as well as protests both there and in Barcelona, are a sharp reminder of the effects of ‘overtourism' and the damage that can be done to the environment and local quality of life.

“The industry adds five percent to global greenhouse emissions, putting our net zero by 2050 target at risk. While there are some sustainable practices, we want to look closely at the Government's actions to ensure the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism are minimised. We will publish a report early next year.”

Terms of reference

The Committee is inviting written evidence submissions on some or all of the following points to inform its inquiry:

  • What can the Government do to support a sustainable inbound tourism industry in the UK?
  • How should the UK tourism industry balance the need to encourage tourism whilst protecting fragile environments?
  • How well is the UK industry managing the impact of tourism in line with its obligations under the sustainable development goals, at home and abroad?
  • Should the UK Government take more responsibility for the impacts of outbound tourism, for example waste and resource management, protecting habitats and species and community and cultural impacts?
  • How can the Government reach its net zero emissions targets through influencing sustainable travel patterns? Is there a role for offsets in sustainable tourism?
  • Where should the balance lie between affordable travel and influencing sustainable travel choices? Are taxes and incentives needed?
  • How effective are sustainable tourism practices by large tourism companies such as cruise ship and package holiday operators

Submissions should be made via the sustainable tourism inquiry page. Guidance is available to view here.

Further information

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