European countries lead new rankings in sustainable tourism

new report from The Economist Intelligence Unit has highlighted the performance of ten countries in promoting sustainable tourism practices.

France and Germany were the best performing countries with scores in the 70s out of 100. They were also the only two seen to have developed a set of defined policies, targets and monitoring on the national level. The UK came in third with a score of 62 while the average across the ten countries assessed was 46.3.

The research group compared sustainable practices across five categories: political and regulatory environment, environmental sustainability, socio-economic sustainability, economic sustainability, and travel and tourism industry.

The issue is vital as it is estimated that tourism contributes 5% to global greenhouse gas emissions and contributes over 10% of the world’s GDP.  The level of tourism in a country can also have a negative impact on local prices, congestion and air quality.

Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the UN’s World Tourism Organization, and who contributed to the report, said: “We are finding now that there are many destinations around the world, such as Venice, Barcelona, Amsterdam and others, where people are saying ‘Enough tourists; we don’t want any more’”.

The index defined sustainable tourism as the creation of an industry which ‘preserves or enhances a country’s social, cultural or environmental capital’. The research highlighted that there remains a lack of available data and insufficient implementation of policies. For example, while some countries may have passed laws to ensure tourism is linked to conservation, there is no monitoring or enforcement.

China and India led the index in growth of their own tourism industries, which could provide a strong foundation for spreading sustainable practices, especially among other developing countries.

Michael Gold, editor of the report, said: “Progress in sustainable tourism is ongoing in the emerging world, and will hopefully continue apace.

“While the strong performance of developed nations is encouraging, as developing countries grow in prominence as tourism destinations, they will take on a greater role in driving sustainability in this field, worldwide”.

The Sustainable Tourism Index

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