tourist arrivals 2016

Tourism growth – an opportunity and a challenge.

As we start a new year, so much of the news about the tourism industry is about its growth.   Bookings for 2016 are expected to grow and ABTA recently announced that the number of overseas holidays booked  in 2016 is up 10% year on year.  Meanwhile, this year the cruise sector will introduce 27 new ships.  In fact, despite occasional shocks, tourism has shown virtually uninterrupted growth over the past 6 decades, it’s now one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world.  By 2020, the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) predicts that a staggering 1.36 billion tourists will be travelling abroad and that by 2030 tourist numbers will be double what they were in 2010.

Village Routes, Cyprus, 2010, copyright Georgina Cranston, wine tastingThis is undoubtedly good news for the industry and more tourists means economic advantages and opportunities, including tax revenues and jobs, for countries receiving visitors too.  But with all this growth, how can the industry protect the quality of the customer experience, which thanks to the rise of peer to peer websites empowering us all to share our experiences with each other, has never been more vital to a company’s reputation?

The elements that go into a good holiday include a warm welcome from local people, a clean, beautiful environment, a feeling of relaxation and of being safe and secure. Holidaymakers also increasingly value the knowledge that their visit is benefitting the destination in some shape or form.

Looked at another way, all these elements for a good holiday are also what also goes into making a sustainable destination.  In short, a great place to live, work and visit.

As tourism continues to grow, getting these elements right becomes ever more challenging as it involves the whole gamut of organisations that have a stake in the holiday product – including destination authorities, tour operators, hotels, excursion providers and more.  The Travel Foundation was created to work with all these parties, bringing them together to support a shared vision for better destinations and in turn better holiday experiences.  We do this by increasing access to market for local people, supporting destinations to share their local heritage, food and culture and developing ways for tourism to fund conservation and protect biodiversity.

2016 ushers in the official launch of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and its sustainable development goals which include tourism.  With the industry’s growth set to continue, it’s heartening to see this recognition of the important role sustainable tourism can play in improving people lives and protecting the environment.  And it highlights a significant opportunity  for the industry and destination governments to re-think how tourism works for the benefit of the destination and the holidaymaker.

Gina 222Written by Georgina Davies, Communications Manager.