A report published today by the Travel Foundation, Cornell University’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise and EplerWood International describes how destinations must uncover and account for tourism’s hidden costs, referred to as the “invisible burden”, to protect and manage vital destination assets worldwide.  Failing to do so puts ecosystems, cultural wonders, and community life at increasing risk, and places the tourism industry on a weak foundation that could crack under its own weight.

The range of costs not currently accounted for include those needed to:

  • upgrade infrastructure beyond resident needs, to meet tourism demand;
  • manage and protect public spaces, monuments, the environment and natural habitats;
  • mitigate exposure to climate change risks; and
  • address the needs of locals affected by rising real estate prices, driven by the demand from tourism.

Either residents are left to pay these costs, or they are simply not paid, increasingly leading to environmental crises, spoiled tourism assets, and growing dissatisfaction among local residents. Destination authorities urgently need access to new resources, systems and expertise to ensure that, as tourism grows, the true costs of every new visitor are fully covered.

Amid increasing concern about “overtourism” and calls from within the travel industry for improved destination management, the report, Destinations at Risk: The Invisible Burden of Tourism, was commissioned by the Travel Foundation to better understand the challenges and constraints that national and municipal authorities face. It provides a thorough review of the risks that destinations face and the solutions urgently needed, including:

  • New local accounting systems that capture the full range of costs stemming from the growth of tourism, in place of an incomplete set of economic impact measures.
  • New skills and cross sector collaboration, underpinned by data and technology, to achieve effective spatial planning, manage demand for public utilities and services, and evaluate the availability of vital, local resources.
  • New valuation and financing mechanisms to redress debilitating underinvestment in infrastructure and local asset management and enable the transition to low-carbon destination economies.


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