The Invisible Burden of Tourism, part 3

While we have been working through stakeholder meetings, Martha Diehl is one voice that keeps asking to start with collecting data. Fortunately for the rest of us, her voice is getting louder on this issue. Megan Epler Wood agrees with Martha when she says that local stakeholder meetings are insufficient because they are not discussions based on data that all can share and comprehend. Instead they are often led by angry and upset stakeholders trying to persuade other with opinions based on anecdotal information and with governmental agencies have no budgets to manage tourism’s impacts. “Neither the gurus nor the protesters are advancing approaches that are genuinely constructive because they are based on opinion and anecdotal information.” (Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet, p. 26.)

Thanks to the efforts of Lisa Kleissner, and her contacts in Hawaii, we have been able to obtain the surveys used by the UH for its own study on the Invisible Costs of Tourism. It will be easy to adapt them to our situation. It surveys both tourists and residents. We are looking for one that similarly surveys businesses. This can be the beginning of our data collection strategy, if we can work with cooperation from MCCVB and Monterey County to obtain the funds necessary to implement this data collection process.

Continuing on with the article that relies on Professor Epler Wood’s work found here:

While figures proclaiming the number of visitor arrivals or tourism jobs have become common yardsticks for assessing the health of a local tourism industry, the study finds that destination managers often ignore other vital metrics. 

Those include each individual traveler’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, wear and tear on local infrastructure, threats to biodiversity and demand for land and housing.

Failure to confront these hidden costs is starting to degrade the customs, culture, monuments, natural resources and other assets that make these destinations so appealing to visit in the first place.

In Barcelona, visitors swarm beaches and other beloved attractions, transforming places long loved by residents into virtual no-go zones for locals. Residents are being driven out of Venice as 30 million annual tourists bombard the Italian city, stampeding streets, sidewalks and canals and skyrocketing the price of rent. Poorly behaving tourists on Easter Island have made a mockery of the island’s indigenous culture, climbing on giant moai statues and posing with them for nose-picking photos

To turn this scenario on its head, governments and the travel industry must reinvest a higher percentage of tourism revenues into the destination, the study concludes. The first step toward achieving this requires destination managers to uncover the full cost of hosting each individual visitor. Only then can stakeholders figure out how to pay for those costs.

When such costs go ignored, the study finds that residents are forced to foot the bill. Or worse, the bill doesn’t get paid at all.

The idea is to make tourism pay its own way to the benefit of everyone.

To achieve this, the “Invisible Burden” study suggests local governments create a global trust or revolving fund account with apolitical leaders to finance the preservation of destination assets. (To be continued.)