The Travel Foundation, which commissioned the report, warns that unless new systems are put in place to protect destinations the tourism industry could be placed on “a weak foundation that could crack under its own weight”.
The report, called Destinations at Risk: The Invisible Burden of Tourism, has been compiled with Cornell University’s Centre for Sustainable Global Enterprise and sustainable tourism specialist EplerWood International.
It says destination authorities “urgently need access to new resources, systems and expertise” so that the “true costs of every visitor are fully covered” as tourism grows across the globe.
Destination costs not currently accounted for include upgrading infrastructure to meet the tourist demands; the management and protection of public spaces, monuments and natural habitats; as well as mitigating exposure to the risks of climate change. There is also the issue of tourist demand pushing up property prices for local people.
The report warns these costs will either paid for by local residents, or not paid at all, potentially leading to “environmental crises, spoiled tourism assets and growing dissatisfaction among local residents”.
Salli Felton, chief executive of the Travel Foundation, said: “The invisible burden goes a long way to explain why we are now witnessing destinations failing to cope with tourism growth, despite the economic benefits it brings.
“It’s not enough to call on governments and municipalities to manage tourism better, if they don’t have access to the right skills and resources to do so.
“Destination managers need support to develop new skills and new ways of working that will enable them to move beyond tourism marketing.”
The report calls for the introduction of new local accounting systems to calculate the full costs associated with tourism growth, better skills and cross-sector collaboration on the planning and management of destination resources, and investment in areas such as the transition to low-carbon economies.
Megan Epler Wood, the report’s principal author, adds: “New data-driven systems to identify the cost of managing tourism’s most valued assets are required to stem a growing crisis in global tourism management.
“With the right leadership, finance and analysis in place, a whole new generation of tourism professionals can move forward and erase the invisible burden while benefiting millions around the globe.”