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How can travel contribute to achieving UN’s sustainability goals?

Working in tourism is hard right now, borders are closed and guidelines change almost daily. Although the situation is complex and no one knows what is most effective, the virus probably spreads more when we travel. Therefore, many measures are aimed at limiting travel.

I can understand that.

But politicians and people in general also needs to understand the consequences of sacrificing tourism. We are talking about one of the world’s largest and most important industries with an enormous amount of positive effects on society. Maybe some people and governments need to be reminded of that?

I hope this article first and foremost will inspire you to operate more sustainably, but I also want to give you some new hard-hitting arguments to show people why the things you do are so important to so many people around the world.

Development is more important than perfection

It’s been a while since I stumbled into tourism. Being able to make a living from my hobbies, made sure I never looked back. My focus has gradually shifted over to helping small tourism companies operate sustainably. Whatever that means.

When it comes to sustainability there are an incredible number of guidelines, opinions and practices around the world, and also a lack of these. I also suspect that several of the schemes are marketing measures. It seems as if each country and each company has its own perception of what sustainability is. And we have numerous words. Sustainable, responsible, circular, regenerative, fair and so on.

The search to do right can be frustrating, but at the same time, every provider that focuses on sustainability is also a step in the right direction. It is much better with tens of thousands of actors trying to do as best they can, than just praising those who do everything right.

Just praising perfection, wouldn’t leave much to cheer for.

Development is more important than perfection. Besides, perfection is a relative and subjective quantity in the travel industry.

If we can give Covid-19 a somewhat undeserved pat on the back, the situation has given us time to reflect and time to increase our skills and knowledge. I, like many others, have spent this time on things like getting my certification in sustainable tourism through GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council). I also wanted to get more acquainted with the UN’s sustainability goals and Agenda 2030. SDG Academy offers a number of courses on the UN’s sustainability goals, and I enrolled in a course called “How to achieve the SDG goals”.

These goals provide a good starting point in understanding sustainability, and I have been thinking a lot about how the tourism industry can contribute to each goal. The lecturer, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, is a joy to listen to by the way, and I can really recommend the course which is both instructive and inspiring.

What are the UN’s Sustainability Goals and what do they have to do with tourism?

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are, in short, the world’s joint work plan for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. “Transforming the World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, as it is called. The 17 goals address the global challenges we face including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. 

We call it the tourism industry, but it is actually not one big industry. It is several industries that together make the world’s largest employer,  accounting for 10% of the world’s total gross domestic product (GDP). Because tourism is so varied and enormous, all 17 goals in Agenda 2030 are in fact affected by the choices we as tourism actors make. This means that we have a particularly important responsibility on our shoulders.

When we talk about sustainability it’s easy to one-sidedly focus on climate, but sustainability is about so much more. Local communities around the world depend on tourism. It might be easy for many of us in the Western civilization to demand that everyone has to stop flying and that we only need local tourists, but at the same time tourism accounts for a very large part of all jobs in many poor countries. 45% of all trips go to developing countries. In 30 of the world’s 40 poorest countries, tourism accounts for as much as 60-90% of GDP. Many of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Is it fair to make these countries focus only on local tourists?

Removing tourists has many other effects as well. Nature conservation for example. Why should some of the most fertile areas be national parks if there are no tourists? When visitors disappear, you lose an incentive to take care of the wild animals. Lions and hyenas are considered a plague and a nuisance in many local communities, but since tourism generates income which in turn provides food on the table and clean drinking water, there is a mutual agreement that they need them.

 Everything is connected to everything.

Responsible tourism can take many forms. A small piece of the puzzle is eco-tourism, which is a defined way of traveling or doing tourism. In Norway, we have a certification scheme called Norwegian Ecotourism. It is an example of a good investment that has not really succeeded particularly well in relation to its ambitions.

According to the website, only 16 companies are certified so far. For more than ten years, the brand is still unknown, and it doesn’t attract enough companies nor customers. Maybe the certification process is too hard? It is probably necessary with critical mass of providers to get a commercial effect? If that’s what the goal is.

But, after all, it is an important investment.

The more companies going in the right direction, the better. If you take sustainability seriously and do a little bit every day to help contribute to some of the 17 goals, then you are probably on the right track. In this article I will address each of the sustainability goals. First I want to say a few words about the general condition. I will then try to link the goal to tourism and look at what ways we can contribute.

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Agenda 2030 is about transforming the way we do things.

The goals for sustainable development in Agenda 2030 is a universal agenda that calls on all governments around the world to take transformative measures so that all parts of the world economy can function sustainably. There are 17 goals, but there are also many sub-goals. When SDG 1 is about ending poverty, for example, SDG goal 1.4 is about securing rights to financial resources for the poor and vulnerable.

There are actually a total of 169 goals and in addition 230 indicators to assess whether the goals are achieved. We need to transform the way the economy works, and it’s not just about fighting poverty or improving the economies of poor countries.

It requires a profound and radical change throughout the world.

Sustainability is often described with three dimensions: the social, the environmental and the economic, more commonly referred to as the three Ps – People, Planet, Prosperity. Although there is still a long way before doing things good enough, some countries do a pretty good job with these three dimensions. The Nordic countries, and especially Sweden, are pretty much best in class. Other countries do a good job with one or two of them, but do worse with others.

At this time, no country has come particularly far in achieving sustainable development. Some countries are in a desperate situation and those are also the ones that need the most help. The world community and economic mechanisms have done a solid job of creating economic growth and wealth, but we have not done a good job of distributing wealth fairly, or fighting extreme poverty.

We have definitely not managed to take care of the environment. The world is in the middle of three huge environmental crises as we speak. The first is man-made climate change, the second is the enormous destruction of biodiversity, the degradation of nature and the weakening of ecosystems, and the third crisis is the mega-pollution of air, water and soil, for example microplastics that go into the sea, into the fish and affect the entire marine food cycle. 

Some of us working in tourism do quite well in some areas, such as generating income in poor countries. But we do very poorly in other areas, such as the environment. An important reason for this is transportation, the very basis of tourism. To solve the problems with tourism, we are dependent on other industries contributing because we, for example, need cleaner energy sources for transporting travelers (illustrated in the picture below). 

Everything is connected to everything.

As the development continues, the tourism industry can use the solutions that are being created. For example solar energy, like in this hybrid battery-powered catamaran called The Squid, which runs dolphin tours in the area around Key West.
As the development continues, the tourism industry can use the solutions that are being created. For example solar energy, like in this hybrid battery-powered catamaran called The Squid, which runs dolphin tours in the area around Key West.

How can tourism contribute to achieve the sustainability goals of Agenda 2030?

I like it best when complicated things are described easily, and “Leave no one behind” sums up the core of the sustainability goals. Everyone has to join in. We need everyone. Let’s dig a little further into how we can contribute to each of the goals.

SDG 1 – No poverty

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End poverty in all its forms everywhere

How does the world community succeed in combating poverty?

The world is moving forward, but not fast enough. If we go back to 1990, 36 % of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. In the 30 years since then, the percentage of people living below the poverty line, which is just under 1.9 dollars per day, has been reduced to around 8.6 %. This is a massive step forward, but the world is not on track to reach goal no. 1, which is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

In order for the world community to be able to fight poverty, economic growth must be inclusive and distributed much more evenly among the world’s countries and population. Each country must be able to invest in important social services, and provide equal opportunities to all its citizens.

Many countries and areas need help with this.

How can tourism help fight poverty?

Tourism cannot fight poverty alone. But as one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors in the world, tourism is well positioned to promote economic growth and development at all levels, and to generate income through creating jobs.

A relatively unique thing about tourism is the ability to create value in remote, inhospitable areas. In 30 of the world’s 40 poorest countries, tourism accounts for between 60-90 % of the gross domestic product (GDP). That is a lot. Tourism can help spread value creation within a country as well. Some of the popular destinations in the outskirts of Norway are experiencing a large influx of travelers from home and abroad. In many areas, tourism helps to keep the ghost of eviction at bay, and it also helps more people to be proud of what they have to offer.

This is the same in most comparable parts of the world.

Tourism can also be linked to national strategies for poverty reduction and entrepreneurship, as there are often low skills requirements and employees are often recruited locally. It is very important that we make sure that the money from those who travel ends up locally and not to all kinds of intermediaries. This way we can contribute to a larger share of plots and properties ending up in local hands. Rights and access to land, ownership and microfinance can also provide opportunities for the local tourism industry to develop, and create more opportunities for self-driven income.

When tourists buy from local businesses, the income goes straight into local value chains, and in turn tourism contributes to the poorest being able to take part in value creation. We see that neglected groups, such as young people and women, are more often included because of tourism.

But, we have to make sure the money ends in the visited destination. The leakage effect describes how the money from travelers leak out of the local economies. It can be as little as 5% in typical mass tourism destinations. Resorts and cruise ships owned by foreigners. Middle men. Local ownership is important.

Although there is a risk that adaptation to affluent tourists will contribute to pushing the local population out of their areas, locals will still have much left over from the income generated by 1.5 billion tourists. Income can give people the opportunity to not only eat, but also to obtain food that is better for their health. This puts less pressure on already crowded health services, cattle conflicts with humans and animals, and the fight against poaching and exploitative volunteering.

Income from tourism can be invested in community-related projects such as helping to develop and increase health services, clean water and sanitation, family and support for other work.

Moving on to SDG 2.

SDG 2 – Zero hunger

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End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

How does the world community succeed in fighting hunger?

After a decline in the number of people suffering from hunger from the 1990s until 2014, the number is now rising again. In 2017, about 821 million people were starving. The number is the same as it was back in 2010. Two steps forward and one step back. So it may be time for us to reconsider how we grow, distribute and consume our food.

To reverse this negative trend, it is important that investment in agriculture is directed towards sustainable food production and productivity. If we do this correctly, agriculture, forestry and fishing can provide nutritious food for everyone, and at the same time be an important source of income.

We must ensure that we have enough food of good enough quality. So that everyone gets enough calories and nutrition. This will contribute to fewer diseases and less mortality. If we are to succeed in that, we need to have efficient production that satisfies our requirements for quality and nutrition. Many things can affect food production, e.g. climate, precipitation and prices.

If we have a good enough selection, the prices will also be better and that makes the food available to more people. We must also ensure food security and good distribution. The food has to be available. Other important factors are utilization rate, transport and fair distribution of income from food production.

If we get this sorted out, we will be closer to fighting hunger.

How can tourism contribute to SDG 2 fighting hunger?

Increased revenue is key also here.

Tourism can stimulate sustainable agriculture by making food production more profitable. When local farmers get to take part in value creation through the production, use and sale of local raw materials in tourist destinations, they are integrated into the value chain of tourism. Food production can supply hotels and tour operators, and local products can be sold to tourists and locals. 

It is important that we in tourism understand the value of shopping locally, and not least that we choose responsible local suppliers. More revenue for locals, will also provide more efficient solutions and better technology which in turn can provide better production. 

This also means that we have to make demands to our subcontractors.

There is an enormous potential in the growing segment of agro-tourism that complements traditional agricultural activities. Many farmers, for example, offer accommodation and experiences. This increase in income can lead to a more varied agriculture and increase the value of the experience.

This trend has also made it possible for “ethnic” food to increase its visibility, which helps to preserve local food and culture. In many cases, it can also lead to increased exports to international markets. In a modern world, more and more people want to move away from the standardized, and seek “authenticity” through food and drink.

Economic growth alone will not be able to solve the hunger problem. On the contrary, much of the solution lies in how we use our resources. The consumer society is a big part of the problem. Like in food waste. We throw an infinite amount of food. Fully usable quality food goes straight into the trash, and the hotels with their buffets are among the biggest culprits. The potential for improvement here is enormous.

If we as tourism players manage to reduce food waste, we will also save money, resources and we have more food available to fight hunger. It is extremely important that tourism continues to increase its efforts to reduce waste.

Part of solving the waste problem lies in local food production. A lot of food is destroyed during transportation. Destroyed food goes straight into the trash. In my home area, many people work in salmon farming. And a saying there is that no one is busier than a dead salmon. Even though the food is transported to other parts of the world, I believe it illustrates the point well. Less travel time means better quality. 

And better and healthier food for everyone contributes to improved health and quality of life.

SDG 3 – Good health and well-being

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Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

How do we as a world community succeed in improving health and quality of life?

One of my heroes, Hans Rosling, started the website Gapminder.org, * which provides a good overview of global facts. There you can see that there has been great progress when it comes to improving human health worldwide. Mortality among mothers and children has been reduced.

Life expectancy is rising worldwide. We have had enormous success through vaccine programs and increased cleanliness, but despite this progress, the reduction in diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis has stalled.

In order to achieve this sustainability goal, a massive effort is required over the next 15 years. This is especially true when it comes to eradicating serious diseases and training the necessary personnel. A key to goal achievement is to ensure all basic health services, access to medicines and support for research. Covid-19 has shown us that everything can change quickly.

(* We at Travelopment are developing a fact-based portal for tourism, largely inspired by Gapminder).

How can tourism contribute to improving SDG. 3 – good health and quality of life?

Health and tourism have been pitted against each other in many ways lately. Some claim that Covid-19 has flared up again because people are traveling. That is true in many ways, considering a virus does not spread alone and no one gets infected if no one meets up, but it is still a simplification of the flare-up.

Tourism is doing their part right now, and will continue to do so for a long time. But there are many negative effects of restricting people’s freedom, which to a very high degree affects health and quality of life.

But this article is not about Covid-19.

The biggest contribution from our industry to SDG 3 is revenue. Revenues to local actors will provide tax revenues generated from tourism, and fees and charges from visitors can be reinvested into health care, services and disease prevention. Health is in many ways a matter of political priority and it requires the will of local authorities. We in tourism can use our consumer power to push for these things to be prioritized.

If you want to attract more visitors, you need to have a medical infrastructure. Countries that invest in universal health coverage make a healthy investment in their “human capital” (WHO). Not only does this strengthen people’s health and life expectancy, but it also protects against epidemics, reduces poverty and the risk of hunger, creates jobs, causes economic growth and strengthens gender equality.

Tourism can indirectly provide more medical staff financed by the private sector in some areas. And it can provide access to emergency care for locals. An example is how medical staff at Everest Base Camp have assisted locals. We also mentioned how increased access to better and healthier food provides better health.

Quality and accessible primary health care are the basis for universal health coverage, and we must do more to improve the quality and safety of health care globally. Poor health care destroys lives and costs the world unimaginable amounts of money every single year. Primary health care is about caring for people and helping them prevent, instead of just treating a single disease or condition.

There is no doubt that most travelers experience a positive effect on their quality of life, many will also have a positive effect on their health. Those who travel are to a large extent part of the more privileged half of the earth’s population. But tourism helps open the eyes to other people’s challenges and living conditions. And by traveling we can be “eyewitnesses” to what is going on.

Tourism companies can also contribute with additional support in both health and quality of life by making donations to different charities and projects. To achieve the goals of health coverage, there is a need for more than 18 million additional health workers by 2030, especially in low-income countries. Investments are needed from the public and private sectors for health worker education, and for the creation of new positions in the health sector. 

Money from tourism is important for financing education. And education has a good effect on health.

Everything is connected to everything.

SDG 4 – Quality education

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Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all

How do we as a world community succeed in improving education?

It is generally agreed that good education is a foundation for improving lives all over the world. Through education, you will strengthen your opportunities for controlling your own life. It’s important that girls and boys have equal access to good quality education, and this education should be free. There has been a huge increase in the number of children attending school. The progress has been especially significant for girls and women.

There has also been a huge improvement in basic reading and writing skills. But there are still far too many who cannot read or write, which also means putting a stop to further education.

So there’s still much work to be done.

How can tourism contribute to SDG 4 – quality education

Tourism depends on a well-trained and skilled workforce. In the nature of tourism, it is implicit that one is present almost everywhere. This also means that jobs are everywhere. What other industries can point to an equally district-friendly spread of both high-skilled and low-skilled employment?

A certain number of visiting tourists provides a tangible incentive to further one’s education. You have the possibility of getting a job without having to move away. And subcontractors are also part of tourism.

Tourism shows the importance of language and the global exchange of languages and values. An important part of this is the opportunities that tourism provides to women and young people. Tourism is inclusive and can provide jobs for many sections of the population.

Tourism can also provide incentives to invest in education and training, values from a culture of tolerance, peace and non-violence, and all aspects of global exchange and citizenship. One can simply be inspired and learn more about the world from visitors.

Another role of tourism is that it can open the eyes of those visiting the destination. In Nepal, for example, several schools have been opened by climbers and other visitors. A good example is Sir Edmund Hillary who opened his first of many schools in Nepal, a few years after the first ascent of Mount Everest.

There are countless examples of this throughout the world. People visiting a country get a connection to the place and a desire to contribute. It is probably less likely that these connections happen among cruise and charter tourists at large resorts. Not that I can document that claim.

Many tourism companies start their own funds, or donate money to other funds and schools, as part of giving back to places they have visited. We also see a number of programs where customers can donate if they want to.

A slightly “darker” side of tourism, but which still finances schooling, is visits to primary schools and orphanages in poor countries. I write darker because this is very controversial. The children are “on display” and many of these “orphanages” are also involved in trafficking. It’s important to be 100% sure before you start collaborating. More about this later in the article.

The journey is always a source of learning, from the Middle Ages and the great explorers, the 19th century’s “The grand tour”, and all kinds of educational journeys. What would Hemingway’s books have been without his travels, what had Darwin written about without visiting the Galapagos, and what would we have known about the world without people traveling?

Local authorities will often see a potential for further development of areas after tourists have discovered it, and after which educational programs may also be launched. Tourism thus contributes to infrastructure. Limited government funding for education often equals to minimal government support. Children will often have to walk many miles to schools that are enormously crowded and in disrepair, and study all day among the most uncomfortable and inadequate facilities and equipment.

Due to tourism’s enormous contribution in the form of income and foreign exchange, it also strengthens skills in English in particular. English is by far the most important language in digital communication, and if you master English, you also get access to that world and the knowledge that exists digitally.

Another factor is that people who have received training through tourism, who have learned languages and computer skills, often give a lot back to society as teachers. Because Travelopment wants to build the learning platform of the future for tourism, I spent the spring season studying a subject about the future of education. The subject was at Harvard University and was called “Leaders of learning”. There we learned about the four main types of learning, and “the educational shift”.

Here is a brief overview of how education and learning is changing. Because right now there is a huge transformation in education that can be divided into five main groups:

1. Content is everywhere – Multiple sources, flexible access based on interest rather than defined frameworks

2. Teachers are everywhere – Expertise will be equated with formal teachers. Learning becomes more of a social activity, where more people can take on the role of teacher.

3. More personal – Everyone has a different background, motivation and basis for learning. Learning must and will be adapted to the individual.

4. Network is the new classroom – Participatory and voluntary learning based on common interest, regardless of time and place. You can learn a lot about plants if you are a member of the local garden team.

5. Learning happens everywhere – You can choose the place you prefer. At a library, in a cafe or on a trip.

Tourism can, in the future, play an even more important role when it comes to education. We will be less bound by time and place, more people can choose to travel while learning new things. They may want to seek out locations. The traditional hierarchical classroom learning is unlikely to define the future.

Factors such as tourism being seasonal, as well as part-time and abnormal working hours, have so far contributed to a fairly low level of education within tourism. This has created a boost in knowledge between large international companies and the small local players. The flexible solutions we have now and in the future have the possibility of creating a revolution, and making the power and income local.

This will in turn mean that more money can be invested in basic education locally. Capacity and skills must be strengthened to ensure that the tourism sector can flourish and provide job opportunities for young people, women and those with special needs.

SDG 5 – Gender equality

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Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

How do we as a world community succeed in improving gender equality?

There are more women than men in the world. Yet there is an imbalance in the world where we find women being directly or indirectly discriminated against. We are making progress here, but we still have a long way to go. Although 143 out of 195 countries have statutory equality, women are still much more exposed to exploitation, violence, harmful practices such as child, early or forced marriage, female genital mutilation, human trafficking, fewer rights, less access to financial resources, technology, ownership, control over land or property, financial services, heritage and natural resources, than men.

Nevertheless, the world today is in general a better place for women than it has been in the past (!). Some of the UN indicators show that conditions for women around the world are improving, especially when it comes to female circumcision and child marriage. Unfortunately, not enough is being done with the basic problems concerning gender inequality, which makes properly combating the problem almost impossible.

Particularly big challenges are associated with religion and cultural traditions, but putting the blame on that is not really the answer. That is just part of the problem.

Gender equality is a human right and important for development.

Gender equality is about giving all genders equal rights, opportunities to decide over their own lives and abolishing discriminatory schemes. Women must have access to education, health care, employment and legal rights, because it is necessary for the development of a country. 

Women’s authority is a prerequisite for solving the world’s problems of poverty, resource issues and peace. In countries like Norway, we have come a long way, but there are still differences. We see it in the board and management, in who owns companies, and not least in differences in salary.

Sustainable development cannot be achieved if there is no equality and empowerment of women. Gender equality is integrated into every goal for sustainable development, and it will require a strong effort and a change in the legal framework if we’re gonna get rid of gender-based discrimination. It is deeply rooted.

Fortunately, social norms can change and tourism is part of that process.

How can tourism and tourism contribute to SDG 5 – Gender equality

In most regions of the world, women make up the majority of the labor market for tourism. Women represent 55.5% of the hospitality sector globally, even up to 70% in some regions, according to the International Labor Organization.

Tourism can thus strengthen the position of women in society, especially by offering direct jobs and generating income in tourism and host-related businesses. As one of the sectors with the largest share of women as employees and entrepreneurs, tourism can be a tool for women to unleash their potential, helping them become fully engaged and give them leadership positions in tourism, and subsequently in all possible areas of society.

We must at the same time remember that women are to a large extent among the lowest paid, and women often get the positions with the lowest status. On top of this, women do a lot of unpaid work in family businesses (UNWTO).

This means that one of the most important steps we who work with tourism can take is of course to ensure that women are paid the same as men. We must also use our influence on subcontractors and remember that we have the opportunity to opt out of unscrupulous players. Tourism also helps provide insight into what is going on around the world, and thus more people will be able to report on imbalance and discrimination.

Through tourism, women can be offered equal opportunities in education, work, income, skills development and equal access to resources, technology, ownership, control and finance. Tourism can thus play a major role in empowering women to take a more active and equal role in society, together with changing attitudes, and therefore also contributing to less exploitation and discrimination.

Kofi Annan once said that there is no better tool for development than giving power to women. I think that sounds about right.

There is still a lot of work to be done though. Capacity and skills must be strengthened to ensure that the tourism sector can flourish and provide job opportunities for young people, women and those with special needs.

SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation

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Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

How do we as a world community succeed in making more clean water and better sanitation available?

The water planet Tellus has more than enough fresh water for everyone, but due to poor infrastructure and economy, not everyone has access to the water. And population growth and climate change are causing water shortages to increase in many places. As of 2017, around 71% of the Earth’s population had access to secure water supplies. This means that very many people don’t.

Worldwide, there has been great progress when it comes to giving everyone access to toilets, but the development has been slow and every third person still lives without having access to good enough sanitary conditions.

There are several things that need to be done. We must first and foremost protect and maintain the drinking water sources we already have, so that access to clean drinking water is maintained where they exist. But that alone is not enough. Investments in new technology and new water and sanitation facilities, in the countries and regions where this is lacking, is crucial.

This way we can help prevent millions of people from dying.

How can tourism contribute to SDG 6 – Clean water and good sanitation?

Tourism can play a critical role in achieving access to water, as well as hygiene and sanitation for all. One of the ways to do that is to limit the consumption of clean water in connection with tourism. Although tourism makes up a relatively small share of total water consumption globally by 1%, a small number compared to the massive 70% of agriculture, significant volumes are still used per tourist per day.

According to the European Environment Agency, this can be between 300 and 2000 liters per tourist every single day. This includes drinking, cooling, irrigation, pools, sanitation, cleaning, waste management. In many places, up to 5,000 liters per day are also used to support food requirements.

To put this in perspective, an 18-hole golf course requires about 50 million liters of water per year to be kept lush and green. According to Tourism Concern, this is the same as 1000 average households.

A local person will use an average of 30 liters of water per day. In poor areas this may be only a few liters.

The research is clear in that limiting water consumption is enormously important in areas where water is a scarce resource. Consumption of 1000 regular guests in a luxury hotel for 50 days can provide 1000 families in poor countries with water for three whole years. (Tourism Concern 2014). When people travel, they consume far more water than they do at home, and this water is taken from the same sources that the locals use.

In the cases where this is not done, it is often because resorts and other destinations have purchased exclusive rights or own the sources of supply so that the water is not available to locals. This is even worse and is reminiscent of the practice of large corporations, such as Nestlé, which privatizes drinking water sources around the world.

We can also contribute by using our consumer power and distancing ourselves from the practice of major international companies such as Nestlé and others. Stop buying products from these companies and state clearly what you mean.

Providing clean water is also about taking care of nature. It is important to protect and restore water-related ecosystems such as forests, mountains, wetlands and rivers to limit water scarcity. It is important to limit greenhouse gas emissions and it is important to prevent desertification.

More international cooperation is also needed to stimulate consumption efficiency and to support technology in developing countries. For example, one can have technology to purify and treat water, for example to efficiently collect rainwater. Everyone knows that industrialized meat production has an enormous negative impact on the climate, but in many poor countries this also affects hygiene. Water sources are shared with livestock and many get their water from rivers where livestock have free access.

It is important that our contribution is long-term. One way to get clean water can be to build wells. Many tourism companies have helped build many wells. This is a good thing, but at the same time such projects tend to lapse because the project is left to local authorities who do not have the resources to take care of it.

Therefore, in tourism we must make sure to give our support to long-term projects. It is not sustainable to build infrastructure if you do not also contribute to its maintenance. One thing you can do is make sure you match your guests’ consumption by facilitating access to water to locals.

Much of the solution may lie in raising awareness among travelers. That is, through training. Take them out, teach them to appreciate the nature in the area and understand the local ecosystem. Can you get guests to reduce their emissions? Tourism can contribute to conservation.

If you do this in a good way, sustainable regulation of water consumption can provide a better experience for the guest. It can protect the environment and biodiversity, reduce emissions and not least reduce costs. Most people really want to be responsible guests.

It may not look promising for the big resorts in the future, but they also have a chance to seize the opportunity and change their practices. We must make demands if we are to make use of such facilities. And we must start today.

SDG 7 – Affordable and clean energy

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Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

How do we as a world community succeed in providing clean energy for everyone?

We do not have enough clean energy sources today, but the world is moving towards cleaner energy for everyone. This means that more of the energy we use is sustainable and widely available. Access to energy is central to almost all the challenges and opportunities that the world community has today.

It is not just about climate change, it is also about jobs and income, food production, security and infrastructure. If we can increase investments in renewable energy such as hydropower, wind power or solar power, it is a good contribution to the goal of sustainable development. We must have more clean energy, and we must end our use of fossil fuels. If we can manage an efficient change, it will ensure food production and jobs.

But we have a long way to go. Approximately 3 billion people actually use polluted energy when they cook, and they are thus exposed to dangerous air pollution. 840 million people now live without access to electricity, and half of these live in Africa.

Electricity is not perfect either. Battery production, for example, drains the world of elements and resources, and used batteries are difficult to handle. Hopefully we will be able to solve these problems as we move forward.

How can tourism contribute to SDG 7 – Clean energy for all?

Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world and clearly one of the industries that consumes the most energy. It is also an area with enormous impact. Had tourism cut all its emissions, it would have been a huge step forward on behalf of the world community.

But the first, most obvious and most profitable move we can make, is to minimize and streamline the consumption we already have. By doing so, we also indirectly contribute to more clean energy becoming available to others, at the expense of polluting energy. Tourists use energy (and water) with a greater intensity than the local population, so by doing this, we’ll have a direct effect.

We can save energy by using good old energy efficiency measures such as switching off lights, using energy-saving light bulbs and so on. We can insulate and upgrade heating systems. We can look at where the food comes from and use more sustainable food. We can be aware of the products we buy and offer our guests, and encourage them to reduce their consumption.

The positive bonus is that less energy consumption is good for the wallet.

Another step we can take is to invest in sustainable energy, and implement new solutions like electricity instead of fossil fuels, solar panels etc. into the energy mix. Consequently, by promoting sound and long-term investment in sustainable energy sources, tourism can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, curb climate change and contribute to innovative and new energy solutions in urban, regional and remote areas. There lies a great responsibility on the transport sector, but others, such as hotels and restaurants, also have to do their part.

We may have to endure wind turbines gracing our sunsets. It is not the world’s most efficient energy solution today, but it’s probably part of the future. We’ll always have wind. The world community is still developing solutions for the future, and this also has to happen in the proximity of where we live. Especially if where we live is windy.

We can not just let others take the plunge while we wait for more effective solutions. The world does not have time to wait. But it is important that it is done in a balanced way, that it does not affect the biological diversity, and that non-reversible wounds in important natural areas are minimized.

This is a very delicate balancing act, but the world has to develop cleaner energy sources. And if you want to succeed, the road there will not be without turns.

With that being said, this is a bit difficult for me to write, since I personally am opposed to most of the developments along our coasts. The head sees opportunities, while the heart bleeds when nature has to suffer wounds. Every road and windmill creates wounds that cannot be reversed. It opens up a wide range of philosophical questions, but I have no room for that here.

 We can also offer experiences that use less energy, and think more about how they travel to our destination. Bicycling is better, healthier and more fun than sightseeing by bus. We can encourage guests to use public transportation and offer trains instead of planes. Kayaks and sails are also good and fun experiences.

Fortunately, there is a movement going on here.

SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth

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Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

How do we as a world community succeed in providing decent work and economic growth?

Providing good quality jobs for all by 2030, is a major challenge for virtually all countries in the world. It is difficult to secure enough jobs, but the problem is bigger than that as half of the world’s population is on a low income. In fact, so low that they can not live on their wages.

The most important step for us to be able to eradicate poverty and fight inequality in the world, is to provide enough jobs for everyone. Then we must also, based on today’s economic models, create economic growth that is fair. And we must make it possible for e.g. founders to create new jobs, to make sure we have enough.

This means getting more women into work, and ensuring that working life is safe. We should also secure more permanent jobs, and at the same time reduce irregular and illicit employment. And we need to find ways to employ young people.

The world is also constantly changing, and it’s important to remember that modern working life is different from the industrial society. In the global and flexible job market, work can be done whenever you want and from anywhere. And this also requires training and knowledge.

How can tourism and tourism contribute to SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth.

This sustainability goal is perhaps where the tourism sector contributes the most to the world community. Our sector very much contributes to the increase in jobs and economic growth, and is especially responsible for employing women and young people. Tourism is one of the driving forces behind global economic growth and accounts for almost 1 in 10 jobs worldwide. Directly and indirectly.

Tourism reaches all corners of the world, bottoms, peaks and all kinds of rural areas. This means that people all over the world can benefit from the value increase. The value chain for tourism is extensive, jobs are created in a number of sectors such as construction, food production and communication. I have previously written a bit about this in this article

 UNWTO, the United Nations Tourism Organization, and the World Travel and Tourism Council regularly publish international tourism data showing the development of tourism towards becoming one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors in the world. That is particularly noticeable now when the world has stopped due to the Corona-virus, and the figures for 2020 will of course deviate from the curve. Particularly with this goal, it’s useful to look at some of the statistics.

 Here are some figures from WTTC, published in 2019:

  • Every fifth of all new jobs created comes from tourism.
  • In 2018, a total of 122,891,000 jobs were directly related to tourism. That is 3.8% of all jobs in the world.
  • If we count both directly and indirectly, through the tourism value chain, the number is 318,811,000 jobs. 10% of all jobs in the world.
  • The forecasts show that this figure is estimated to be 420 million in 2029. This means 11.7% of all jobs and a growth of 2.5%.
  • Tourism contributed directly to 2.75 trillion dollars, equivalent to 3.2% of the world’s total GDP, in 2018. (1 trillion is 1 million million VAT).
  • If we count the entire value chain, the contribution was 8.8 trillion dollars, and that corresponds to 10.4% of the world’s total GDP.
  • A total of $ 941 billion was invested in tourism in 2018, a figure that is expected to increase to $ 14 trillion in 2029.
  • Tourism had a growth of 3.9% and has thus crushed the general world economy growth 8 years in a row.
  • Tourism is the world’s second fastest growing sector. Only beaten by commodity production, but ahead of the construction industry (3.4%), retail (3.3%), health (3.1%), agriculture (1.8%), finance (1.7%) and communication (1,7%).  
  • In 2018, tourism accounted for 7% of global exports and 29% of global services exports.
  • Especially in many developing countries, tourism is the largest export sector.
  • Tourism creates jobs throughout the country, in contrast to for example, the extractive industry which is located in specific geographical areas. It also helps to spread the indirect jobs.

The tourism industry consists of 85% small businesses. That means less than 30 employees. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a key role in job creation, accounting for two thirds of jobs in developing countries and up to 80% in low-income countries, in addition to being an important source of innovation and creativity. Access to financial services and microfinance is the key, and tourism contributes important capital to it.

We who operate in the industry have a responsibility to develop it in a sustainable direction so that we can create and take care of jobs in the future as well. We cannot rely on short-term solutions, but must adapt so that our children and grandchildren can also be proud to work with tourism. It will probably require more professionalization and education than we have had so far.

SDG 9 – Industry, innovation og infrastructure

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Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

How do we as a world community succeed in building industry, innovation and infrastructure?

Underlying infrastructure must be in place for a society to function. The fact that we invest heavily in infrastructure such as irrigation systems, information technology and transport is absolutely crucial in order to be able to create sustainable development. In some parts of the world this works very well, while in other areas and countries it does not work very well.

This means that we must look for and find ways that contribute to increasing the different countries’ potential for development and growth. Then we need to look at how they can utilize their resources as efficiently as possible and how they can create a sustainable and efficient industry. A key to success with this is to invest in education, technology and science, while having a good health service.

How can tourism contribute to SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure?

I’ve mentioned this before, but the values created from tourism can be invested in infrastructure and innovation.

The value creation that tourism contributes is important for any destination, but at the same time tourism will also open the doors to other investments. If a destination suddenly gets a lot of tourists then there will also be a need for better roads, public transport and other infrastructure. You may need a fast internet speed and a better developed power grid.

Development of a destination depends on the provision of good public and private infrastructure. It is not only about good public and private infrastructure and an innovative environment for the provision of services, but it can also stimulate the authorities to upgrade the infrastructure as a means of attracting tourism and other sources of foreign and domestic investment.

This in turn affects other developments and the local population can have water and sewerage networks upgraded, waste disposal etc. Tourism is in a paradigm shift where those who are not sustainable will disappear. It requires innovation and good solutions. Innovation and upgrading of infrastructure such as transport, energy and water can also influence other industries to be more sustainable, with increasingly efficient use of resources and environmentally friendly technologies and processes.

A lot of technology is being developed for tourism. This technology can again be used in other industries. It can be anything from transportation to healthcare. Focus on sustainability in tourism will also make demands on the destinations that receive tourists. The world is becoming more transparent. We who work in the industry must understand the benefits of, and also use, the technology. We are not digitized even though we have had a few Zoom or Skype meetings.

Tourism also has the ability to reach all small settlements and outposts in a way that other industries cannot. It helps to support these areas and the people who live there despite differences, small population etc. Disadvantaged countries are among those mostly affected by tourism. We also contribute to building infrastructure for other industries.

But we must also take into account how over-tourism, and excessive dominance from tourism in the local economy, affects other industries at the destination. We might need to look for ways to move away from mass tourism to more sustainable forms of tourism.

Adventure tourism, as example, which provides a higher income per guest.

SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities

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Reduce inequality within and among countries

How do we as a world community succeed in reducing inequality?

We have had great development, but the differences in and between countries are still a major cause for concern. Many countries have had economic growth that has contributed to the countries becoming richer. This has unfortunately not necessarily led to less poverty. Despite the fact that 40 % of the world’s poorest earn better today than they have in the past, the differences in income continue to increase.

The world’s 1% richest owns more than the remaining 99% combined. The richest 10% earn up to 40% of total global income, while the poorest 10% earn only between 2% and 7% (UNDP). This can only be changed by giving the poorest and most marginalized groups the opportunity to improve their living conditions.

Important services and measures for this are health care, fair and equal access to school, and fair and good tax systems. To be able to reduce inequality in and between countries, the starting point needs to be a fair distribution of a country’s resources and benefits.

How can tourism contribute to SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities?

If we succeed in engaging the local population and other key stakeholders in the value chain, then tourism is one of the most powerful tools available for community development. With development and renewal, we also contribute to reducing inequalities. We know how tourism contributes to developing countries taking part in the global economy. In 30 of the poorest countries in the world, tourism accounts for 60-90% of gross domestic product, making the industry the most important contributor.

Tourism can contribute to urban renewal and the development of districts, and thus to reduce regional imbalances by giving local communities the opportunity to flourish. It may also lead to less emigration, as well as contribute positivity. When foreign currency is used to develop tourism infrastructure in one country, money is also invested from one country to another. And with this comes other investments.

One must develop both the supply and demand side. For tourists to arrive, there must be some infrastructure at the destination. This can be so costly that local authorities do not have the opportunity to keep up. In order to attract tourists and be competitive, one must also market and facilitate a number of other processes. All of this needs to be funded.

Unfortunately, it is not the case that growth in tourism automatically leads to the development and reduction of inequalities. In fact, the differences can get bigger. It turns out time and time again that typical all-inclusive resorts leave very little in the local community, but contribute greatly to emissions and use of resources.

I hardly need to mention the worst of them all, the cruise industry. International actors make money at the expense of local communities. Research on popular destinations, such as Thailand and Brazil, shows that the relative income of the poor does not come closer to the rich at all, even though there is a 10% growth in tourism. This is how it goes pretty much everywhere.

We can generalize a bit here and say that when rich people from rich countries travel to low-cost countries to soak up the sun on a beach by the sea, it does not contribute significantly to the local destination. The economic leakage is often as high as 40-50% in developing countries, but the UN also has several examples of as little as 5% being left locally from mass tourism. This is not only reprehensible, but they also help to undermine the reputation of the entire tourism industry, and it undermines the positive effects of tourism.

One way to ensure increased local income is through taxes and fees, which in turn can be invested locally and have a positive effect. This works well in some countries, and not so well in other countries.

The trickle-down theory refers to the economic assumption that taxes on companies and the wealthy in society, can be reduced as a means of stimulating business investment in the short term and benefiting society in the long term. In other words, a classic capitalist way of thinking. This is largely how it’s done in many destinations.

They try to facilitate and give benefits to large developers with a hope that it will pay off in the long run. Many developers will also demand benefits, otherwise they will not come. For many destinations, it is simply too difficult to say no to the developers’ beautiful words and visions for the future.

In fact, much of the problem with tourism lies in exactly this. International and national developers either do not get the growth they have been predicted, or they find loopholes to take the money out of the area. There is always a way. Another problem with tourist taxes is that they are often not invested in local infrastructure or in tourism. And many destinations also struggle with corruption. 

I also want to include a concept that often has negative effects and helps to increase differences. Orphanage tourism, i.e. the concept of visiting a local orphanage, has long been controversial as it contributes to human trafficking, with children.

The desire from western tourists to help orphans abroad has created a demand in the market, where middlemen get contracts to offer poor parents a better future for their children. These children are instead often exploited and have to live in shocking conditions, while the “loving” owners receive support for their orphanage operations.

Children are not attractions.

We also have huge differences within tourism companies. There can be differences between hires of different genders, qualifications and skills. We often see that top management, with language and business experience, have high salaries while those who work with catering or in the kitchen get paid very poorly. Cases like this, where you do not give equal pay for equal work, go under what we call social dumping.

Privately owned companies with the law in hand can do as they please, whether it is unethical or not. There is no shortage of horror examples in both the cruise and hotel industry.

But in the form of being tourism actors, customers and citizens, we can demand that the authorities take action and regulate by means of laws and regulations. A fair pay system can assess the top-to-bottom ratio between the highest paid managers and the lowest paid employees.

Tourism has a long way to go before they have regulations and structures in place that dampen inequalities globally. But this is a job that has to be done.

And we can make it.

SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities

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Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

How do we as a global community succeed in creating more sustainable cities and communities?

For years people all over the world have left the countryside and moved into the cities. Right now, urbanization is going faster than ever. More than half of the world’s population now live in cities and urban areas. This number is expected to increase to 60% in 2030. People are moving because they see opportunities that don’t have where they live. Many of the jobs are there, as well as science and ideas, trade and social benefits.  

Urbanization has many advantages, but it also presents many challenges. Those with the worst living conditions live in urban slums. That means people living close together with poor sanitation, diseases and criminals devastate. Many cities are growing faster than they can handle, and the need for housing and jobs is not being met. This is the biggest reason why we get slum areas with few social services and poor living conditions.

Cities account for 60-80% of energy consumption, and 75% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from cities. This is despite the fact that cities occupy less than 3% of our land areas. So there is a lot to gain, and reduce, when building the cities of the future.

When a city functions properly, it ensures that its inhabitants can live good lives and develop both socially and economically. A well-functioning city has fewer differences, less crime and less poverty. We must build cities that can give everyone access to basic services such as housing, transport, energy, clean air and sanitation. We must ensure that everyone feels safe and that their primary needs are met.

We must ensure that resources are used in a sustainable way.

How can travel and tourism contribute to SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities?

The first thing we must do as tourism actors is to show respect for the local population and the local community. A city or community that is not good for those who live there is also not good for tourists. Therefore, the interests of the locals must always come before the tourists. If the locals are complaining about over-tourism and people invading their privacy, then we have to take it seriously and we have to make changes.

If not, we’ll just shoot ourselves in the foot. And I’ve heard it hurts.

In many places, locals are driven away from their neighborhoods because they can no longer afford to live there. This is a clear sign that this all has gone too far, and it may also be the start of the downswing for the city as a tourist destination. This, of course, didn’t happen overnight. It took most popular destinations years to get to this point, with the exceptions of Instagram phenomena such as Trolltunga in Norway and Seljalandsfoss in Iceland.

Instagram almost earned itself a separate article, as the app alone has managed to multiply the number of visitors in many places, and by that also contributed to a deterioration of the environment. The behavior of many visitors has also changed. Tragically some have even lost their lives by trying daring selfie poses, or by ignoring safety or warning signs in search of the perfect image.

When we bring guests to a destination, we must make it easier for them to be responsible, and we must also remind them to be. It is part of our responsibility as hosts. Training our guides or staff to show guests how to be responsible is actually very simple, it has a great effect and we can do it on just about any type of trip or tour. Safety and accountability.  

Venice is a place that runs campaigns for responsible behavior, and asks tourists to live by the golden rule with the campaign #EnjoyRespectVenezia. It’s about treating your city the way you want visitors to treat your city or destination.

By the way, Venice is a place that has been subjected to what is called “Disneyfication”. It is a sociological term that describes a small community that is gradually adapted to a familiar reality for the visitors. When a city becomes popular, and McDonalds and the other chains occupy the area, they are streamlined. You often won’t notice it until it is too late.


When the focus over time has been one-sided on economic growth and job creation, it can also create an imbalance in relation to the “triple bottom line”. This affects the environment, it strains the infrastructure and the local population.

Iceland was under heavy pressure after the financial crisis and saw tourism as an opportunity to recover. They made several moves such as marketing themselves as a transatlantic gateway between the United States and Europe, and with the help of the TV series Game of Thrones, tourism grew rapidly. In fact, the number of visitors skyrocketed from 500,000 in 2010 to 2.3 million in 2018. The population in Iceland is a mere 340,000. It is still a small island state. The growth has gone too fast. The demand exceeds supply, while both local infrastructure and the environment has been brought to their knees. This perception is shared by Icelanders, and as many as 79% of them believe they have too much pressure on their nature.

In some particularly vulnerable cities, the pressure is so strong that the positive effects are hardly noticed by the locals. Prices are skyrocketing and the resistance is growing. There are many examples of places where large sections of the locals no longer want tourists to visit. They’ve had enough. You see it in Dubrovnik, Barcelona, Palma, Valencia, Florence, Genoa, the Cinque Terre cities, Venice, Rome, Budapest, Paris, Prague, Reykjavik, Bergen, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Lisbon, New York, Queenstown, London, Berlin and infinitely many other smaller places. And not only cities, this has also happened in Lofoten, the Isle of Skye, Montenegro, Bali and the Great Barrier Reef.

Many of the places, where there is a lot of resistance from the locals, get even more pressure from large cruise ships or several long-haul flights during the season, and not least by the renting out available homes to tourists rather than to the locals. Many places are also considering trying to extend the season in order to spread out the visitors. We are trying this in Norway, Catalonia is doing the same, and so are many other destinations.

There are different ways of attacking this, some use a whip, others use a carrot. Ultimately, it’s about what the tourists want. They are the ones who will make the choice to travel to other places in other ways. We need to make more  seasons and other destinations more attractive and accessible.

Although many positive effects may not be very noticeable when the pressure is too high, what is noticeable is the total absence of tourists during Corona. It helps to make people aware of the importance of tourism, which can make the dialogue easier when planning future tourism. A tourism that is good for everyone and that makes the destination better.

The old model of mass tourism as a kind of sacred cow has gone out of date, even though it was never really durable. Conveyor belt tourism provides no benefits to either visitors nor hosts. Nevertheless, there are many places that both need and want growth and visitors who contribute to sustainable development.

The question is: how do we balance it? The answer is not constant, and whoever finds it has something many are looking for.

Demonstrations and violence have made tourism headlines and put responsible tourism on the political agenda. Although local authorities have been spokespeople for increasing growth, they have to pay attention to citizens and consumers. This means planning better and setting guidelines for tourism and for foreign ownership of property.

Sustainable tourism has the potential to renew cities and communities that could otherwise fall into disrepair. Rural tourism not only helps to disperse income, it also creates employment and other local services, which can help slow down relocation and correspondingly limit the growth of megacities and slums. It is of great importance in poor countries, but it’s important everywhere.

Take Canada for example. Last year I was introduced to the story of Zita Cobb who is behind the inspiring Fogo Island Inn, a place many of you have heard of. Their history is one of the best examples I know of how tourism can develop a destination.

There are tens of thousands of other good examples just as there, unfortunately, are many bad ones.

EVERYONE thought a new fancy opera house in the tired town of Gateshead outside Newcastle was madness. It is a fun story about how sustainable design, and not least daring to stand out, can boost a city. If there is something small places want, and need, it is to be put on the map.
EVERYONE thought a new fancy opera house in the tired town of Gateshead outside Newcastle was madness. It is a fun story about how sustainable design, and not least daring to stand out, can boost a city. If there is something small places want, and need, it is to be put on the map.

The image from Sage Gateshead is included in order to illustrate how tourism can help promote urban infrastructure and universal accessibility in a tired urban environment. Notice how construction projects, such as museums, ALWAYS calculate with tourism when it comes to funding.

Dilapidated urban areas are often renewed due to increased tourism and it contributes to preserving cultural and natural heritage. Many future-oriented cities also make sure car traffic is removed and air pollution is reduced, while at the same time promoting bicycle accessibility and providing open areas.

I have lived in Oslo for exactly five years, and the city is much better now  than when I moved here. Air quality, in particular, has improved. The city council has made Oslo a much better city for locals in recent years. We see the same development in cities such as Copenhagen, Milan and Madrid. It helps to create a good reputation, and tourism is one of several motivating factors for such measures.


We need to cut the middlemen and make sure that more of the money from the travelers ends up locally. This is one of the most important things that the tourism industry must focus on in the future. We don’t want this money to end up in the pockets of international, wealthy tourism companies.

The money has to go into the local communities. That is the only sustainable way.

SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production

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Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

How do we as a global community succeed in ensuring more sustainable consumption and production?

We consume much more than what is sustainable today. We are draining the world of resources. One third of the food produced is not eaten. Clothes are thrown away because they are no longer in fashion, or because the manufacturer wants to keep prices up.

A well-known example, which in a way has set the standard for the consumer society, is light bulbs. At the beginning of the 20th century, the goal was to make the light bulb last as long as possible. But then major lamp manufacturers decided that making the bulbs less durable would be more profitable. In 1924, the Phoebus cartel, a collection of light bulb manufacturing companies, was created to control global light bulb production, and its lifespan was reduced to 1000 hours. Something that has been standard until today. The durability of mobile phones and computer equipment is also often set by manufacturers who depend on selling new ones.

This is how our economic models and society are built. We must have growth so that the economy doesn’t collapse. We can not go on like this. Sustainable consumption and production are about trading and making better use of resources. We need to do more with less resources. We need to repair and take part in more of a circular economy.

If we are to do something about consumption, we also have to change the way we live. You and I must change our lifestyle so that we, our children and those who come after us, have the best possible living conditions. Everyone has a responsibility to live in a way that minimizes the use of resources, that minimizes the destruction of nature and that limits climate emissions. Some might believe this is lowering the standard of living, but it’s more about what you value in life.

Things or experiences?

How can tourism contribute to SDG 12 – Sustainable consumption and production?

Tourism is specifically mentioned in SDG 12, as a key to the goal achievement:

“A tourism sector that adopts sustainable consumption and production (SCP) practices can play a significant role accelerating the global shift towards sustainability”, including by how it can “develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism which creates jobs, promotes local culture and products ”.

The UN’s 10-Year Framework for Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (# 10YFP) has a Sustainable Tourism Program (STP) led by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The collaboration platform aims to develop better practices and brings together existing initiatives and partnerships, while facilitating new activities that lead us towards more sustainable consumption and production.

The tourism industry has an enormous consumption of food, energy and things, like clothes and equipment, paper, shampoo or soap. Being a large consumer also means that we are an important customer for many manufacturers, and they are reluctant to lose the tourism players as customers.

It is important that we use our power as consumers to make demands on those who produce the goods we consume. How are they produced? What are the ethical guidelines? Is the product harmful to the environment. Choosing a sustainable producer is a statement.

If more people buy sustainably, it may lead to other producers switching to more sustainable production. Every tourism company has an economic interest in identifying the points in the supply chain where small measures can have the greatest possible impact, provide more efficient solutions and increase the life cycle of the products.

We must also make sure we limit our consumption. An important step is to reduce food waste. There are a number of steps that food producers can make, but also us when we receive guests. We can influence those who produce, and we can demand that they e.g. minimizes packaging.

Good food systems provide better security, better nutrition and reduce poverty globally. Less waste also reduces food prices since the manufacturer does not have to calculate the loss.

The easiest way to get started is to reduce waste where we are. One course of action is the well-known smaller plates in hotel buffets. We actually have the possibility of cutting out buffets now, because of the Covid-restrictions. “Free” food has a shorter way to the trash. Good systems can help us save money, and we can get better quality with more nutrition.

We can also influence which menus and ingredients we use/offer. Local food means less transport. Transport emits greenhouse gases, but a lot of food is also ruined on the road. 

If you need a quick rule of thumb, think of the three R’s:

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.

SDG 13 – Climate action

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Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

How do we as a world community succeed in stopping climate change?

The truth is, we are not succeeding. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is increasing rapidly, and climate change is happening much faster than we have previously assumed. Each of the last three decades has been warmer than the previous one. In the years to come, it will get warmer faster and stronger the further north you go.

It has the greatest effect in the Arctic due to melting snow and ice. The ice in Greenland, the sea ice in the Arctic, the snow cover in the northern hemisphere and the ice in Antarctica are getting smaller and smaller. And the temperature in the permafrost has become higher all over the world.

When glaciers melt and the temperature of the ocean rises, this causes the ocean to rise faster than before. The ocean also has the property of capturing CO2. Around 20% of CO2 emissions are stored in the ocean instead of being released into the atmosphere, and that is why the ocean helps to prevent temperature rise.

Unfortunately, this also leads to the sea having a lower pH-value. The ocean has become as much as 26% more acidic, and the consequence of more acidic oceans is a lower ability to capture CO2, and thus the biodiversity in the ocean is weakened.

There will also be more extreme weather and precipitation patterns change due to climate change. Some areas will experience less rainfall, while others will experience an increase in rain and snow. We can expect more extreme precipitation in the Nordic region, while on a global basis, natural disasters and extreme weather will occur more and more often.

The climate is changing because more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere than is natural. Our most common energy sources are so-called “fossil fuels”, such as coal, gas or oil. Fossil fuels contain the substance carbon. This substance is released and released into the atmosphere as CO2 when it is burned. CO2 is part of a complex, global cycle, called the carbon cycle, where CO2 is emitted and captured by, for example, oceans, tundra and forests.

The carbon cycle has usually been in balance, but when our greenhouse gas emissions are in addition to the natural ones, more is emitted than nature manages to capture, and the greenhouse effect is amplified. This imbalance contributes to less heat escaping through the atmosphere. Thus, the globe becomes warmer than it would have been without gas, and so the climate changes.

For every degree that our planet heats up, there will be 7% more moisture in the atmosphere. For everyone who knows the water cycle, this also means that rivers, seas and lakes have 7% less humidity, while we will have 7% more extreme weather. Direct effects of this are storms, floods, severe droughts, higher risk of fire and extreme heat, which in turn leads to e.g. loss of wildlife and crops.

The effects of climate change are visible all over the world. Almost always, the poor are hit the hardest. Many countries have submitted their national plans, but these are far from comprehensive enough. We need to do more, and it is important to limit the increase in average temperature to 1.5°C. That is our opportunity to avoid even more catastrophic consequences in the future.

Climate change does not care about national borders. This means that we must find global solutions in a number of areas. In addition to cutting emissions and capturing and storing CO2, more investment must be made in renewable energy, new industrial systems and changes in infrastructure. In addition, we must invest in protection, in adapting and limiting the extent of damage.. 

How can tourism contribute to SDG 13 – Stop climate change?

Up to 8% (!) of global greenhouse gas emissions can be related to tourism, and tourism can unfortunately never be defended 100% from a climate perspective. There is reason to believe that emissions from tourism will continue to grow, even though Covid-19 has slowed it down for a while. The world is breathing. The development has grown since the 1950’s with travel becoming both cheaper and more accessible, and not least as new populous markets in Asia have also begun to vacation more.

Half of tourism’s emissions comes from transport, mainly air transport, and the other half comes from accommodation and food, among other things. Every time someone travels, CO2 and other greenhouse gases are released. A journey by plane round trip Beijing-Oslo, first class, can result in emissions of 8 tonnes of CO2. This is 4 times more CO2 than what an average person in most countries in the world emits in the course of a year.

Although aircraft are the biggest cause of emissions in tourism, and definitely the most reviled, we have a long way to go in other areas too. Food, consumption of goods, accommodation, trains, boat trips, heating and electricity require energy and cause emissions.

We have already mentioned food waste, it is a huge problem that is greatly underestimated in terms of climate. It is wasteful to use energy for producing food that is not used, or destroyed during transportation.

By lowering energy consumption and switching to renewable energy sources, especially in the transport and accommodation sector, tourism can contribute. The more tour operators that reduce their CO2 emissions, the more we can reduce global warming.

That is why we in the tourism industry have a leading role in combating climate change. Tourism contributes to and is affected by climate change and we do not have to look far to find examples of how climate change affects tourism. In recent years, tourism has been set back by hurricanes, heat waves, floods and forest fires, and the connection between these and climate change is well documented.

It is natural to believe that when the climate changes, so will customer’s travel patterns. If there is no snow in the Alps, few will go there in the winter, and summer destinations may become so warm that tourists will prefer visiting further north.

Tourists won’t travel for extreme heat or forest fires, and more and more people do not want to contribute to this development. For the modern consumer, sustainability is becoming an increasingly important aspect when choosing who to shop from. So we should all want to get better. But greenwashing your business and pretending to take responsibility when you really don’t, will quickly be punished. 

Once you have taken a clear stand and shown this through actions, your brand will strengthen over time.

Here are three simple steps to identify and reduce your emissions:

Step 1: Measure and identify your carbon footprint

Step 2: Take steps to minimize your carbon footprint

Step 3: Compensate for your remaining carbon footprint

You get your carbon footprint when you add up all the CO2 that you or your company stand for. As a tour operator you are not only responsible for your own emissions, but you are indirectly responsible for all emissions from your customers. Gaining insight into the emissions from trips, activities and how customers travel to you is crucial in creating an actual change in your overall carbon footprint. But measuring the entire carbon footprint of your business on your own is a huge challenge.

Fortunately, there are a number of carbon calculators that can make this a lot easier.

You can read more about that here. I have previously written a supplemental article on how to calculate and reduce your carbon emissions.

When you have the overview, you can take action.

The most effective measures for us in tourism are about optimizing transport for travelers, using trains, public transportation and so on. If customers have to fly, direct flights are always better than stopovers. Offering activities with low carbon emissions such as hiking, cycling, canoeing or horseback riding is a good thing. This is not for everyone of course,  but we can all choose environmentally friendly subcontractors for accommodation, and set requirements for which subcontractors they use.

Encourage customers to avoid plastic, food and water waste and take responsibility by choosing the right customers.You can also reduce energy consumption in your office. Meet online, work from home or encourage your employees to travel by public transportation. Reduce energy, use local and preferably vegetarian ingredients for lunch. Things like that.

Take small steps. Be transparent. Involve employees, owners, partners and locals as much as possible. The customer is not always right, and they usually agree when you explain to them why you choose better and more environmentally conscious suppliers.

Reduce as much as possible, and then compensate for the remaining percentage.

Carbon offsets or climate quotas allow you to balance the climate impact by either reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in other parts of the world, or by investing in measures that capture CO2. Once you have estimated how much CO2 your company is responsible for, you are ready to actually offset the emissions. If your carbon footprint is 1 tonne of CO2, you must offset at least 1 tonne of CO2. It’s not very complicated, nor does it cost that much.

When balancing your emissions, it is important to go through an organization that is transparent, that knows what they are doing and creates lasting effects. Double check that your carbon equalization provider is approved by internationally recognized standards, such as Gold Standard or VCS. This means that the projects meet strict criteria, and you can be sure that they are legitimate.

PS: You can in no way buy yourself a good conscience. You still have to work actively to reduce emissions, it’s the only way to actually slow down global warming. Compensation must go hand in hand with reduction.

And I have more to say about this.

More and more people are arguing for cutting out travel all together, at least to remote areas. I understand the argument, and can also to a certain extent agree. We don’t have many years to reverse climate change. But I don’t believe it’s the right way to go, and that it will have far too great consequences for far too many people.

It is easy for us privileged people in the west. We’ll manage, but we can’t just stop traveling to poor countries. Taking tourism away from the countries that need it most, can cut off their lifelines. I have worked with, and gotten to know, many local operators around the world. Tourism is their only hope. To end tourism, we must at least have other support schemes/industry in place. But being dependent on support is completely different from working to create a better life for your family. 

Should we sacrifice these people? I can’t see how that is the right way to go. Residents in developing countries emit, by far, the least, while the rest of us emit, by far, the most.

 But we need to travel less. We cannot continue with the growth we have had since World War 2. We need to cut back as much as we can, we need to develop technology and energy that is cleaner, and we need to find a good balance. Do we need the short trips? The business trips? We need less mass tourism, more money must be left locally from the tourists. Transport must change, hotels must adopt new technology. We already have technology that can make most accommodation more or less “climate neutral”.

We can change this while we are still traveling, albeit not in the same way. 

This is where the battle must be taken.

SDG 14 – Life below water

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Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

How do we as a world community succeed in preserving life at sea?

Well. We are not very successful here either, even though the sea is the most important thing we have. The earth will not work without the sea. Life on earth is 100 % dependent on the ocean. The water, temperature, chemistry, currents and wildlife in the ocean runs the global systems that enable us to live and breathe. More than half of our oxygen comes from the ocean. Our oceans make up 71% of the earth’s surface, 97% of the earth’s water, and 99% of the living space for the earth’s creatures.

But we continue to destroy the ocean in a way that will soon make it unable to protect us properly. We need to do better, and soon. Billions of people and animals are completely dependent on us protecting the ocean. Sustainable measures we can take are, for example, to prevent littering and poisoning of the sea, to stop greenhouse gas emissions so that we don’t acidify it, stop overfishing and destructing our wildlife and coral reefs.

And we must make sure that everyone learns more about the ocean, and to care for it.

How can tourism contribute to SDG 14 – Life below water?

First I would like to highlight our unique opportunity to help people become more aware of the importance of the sea. Everyone who lives in little Norway with the world’s third longest coastline, has a relationship with the ocean. We can give visitors good experiences on and in the ocean. We can provide our guests bits and pieces of experiences and information, that in the long run can make them more aware. Many people do not have the same relationship to the sea as us.

There are many ways to communicate. But you understand what you see.

What has a good effect is visual plastic and rubbish. In recent years, people have started to get really involved in the ocean. There is so much pollution now that it has entered our food chain. We literally get microplastics and environmental toxins in our bodies through our food.

We see it with our own eyes every time we go for a stroll along the beach. And more and more of us realize that this is not how we want it to be.  

So let us not hide the problem. When we all see what is happening, it will trigger commitment. We also need to be aware of our own emissions. Tourism has a direct negative impact on the ocean. Through littering, noise, destruction and fishing, and emissions of greenhouse gases that acidify the water.

It’s actually easy to stop littering. But everyone has to take responsibility. We do not need plastic spoons, cups, straws and other disposable plastic, and we must all take our own rubbish with us and recycle it. We need to help travelers limit their waste. And we must make demands on the industry that delivers goods to us.

Feel free to check out empower.eco, they help clean plastic from the ocean in a measurable and efficient way, and have solutions for companies.

A dedicated marine biologist talks about ocean life in the Oslo Fjord on board the electric boat Brim Explorer.
A dedicated marine biologist talks about ocean life in the Oslo Fjord on board the electric boat Brim Explorer.

Fishing and harvesting marine resources is also problematic, so it’s important to follow guidelines. Ideally, we should stay well within limits and avoid fishing. The best tourism does not drain the marine ecosystem of resources. It is also important to follow closely how fish and seafood are obtained. There are many bad practices around, and the last thing we want is for our services to contribute to ruining sea life.

From time to time, we build large facilities by the sea that are at the expense of the ecosystem. But be aware and make demands on your subcontractors. We must stay away from the vulnerable areas and not invade natural habitats. For example, the way some whale watching businesses go about, is problematic. Noisy boats drive up right next to these majestic mammals so that tourists can get the best photo opportunities.

I doubt it’s the best thing for the whales.

Sustainable tourism as a source of funding, on the other hand, plays an important role in the conservation of marine ecosystems, and sustainability goal 14 specifically addresses tourism.

SDG # 14 “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”

“By 2030 increase the economic benefits of Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism”.

Tourism is connected to the sea in all possible ways. Whether it is fishing as an activity, or the sea food we eat, boating, snorkeling, diving, traveling across the ocean,vacationing by the coast, the environment in the sea is of utmost importance to all of us. And for those who travel on cruises, and when we emit greenhouse gases. The sea is rising with global warming, marine life is dying, and greenhouse gases are acidifying the water.

SDG 15 – Life on land

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Life on Land: Protect, restore & promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desert-ification & halt & reverse land degradation & halt biodiversity loss

How do we as a world community succeed in preserving life on land?

We, the humans of the world, are destroying the ocean and we continue to destroy the ecosystem on land. 30% of the earth’s surface is covered by forests, which provide shelter and food for 80% of all terrestrial fauna and insect species. The forests provide us with air, water, food and important medicines. 1.6 billion people are also directly dependent on the forest as their livelihood and residence, among these, 70 million are from the world’s indigenous people.

The world’s flora consists of 70,000 plant species, at least those we know of. The world’s fauna includes birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, insects, crustaceans, mollusks and so on. It is estimated that the total number of current species is somewhere between 10 to 14 million. Then about 1.2 million of these are documented and over 86 percent have not yet been described anywhere. There may in fact be many more, because in May 2016, some scientists reported that as many as 1 billion species may be present on Earth right now. So most of them we haven’t even discovered yet.

But all of them have a place in our ecosystem.

Rapid environmental changes usually cause mass extinctions. It is going on as we speak. Between 2000 and 2015, 20% of the forests on earth have been destroyed. This is highly problematic. One million (!!!) animal and plant species are threatened right now. The destruction of biological diversity is one of the biggest crises the world is facing.

This requires immediate action if we’re gonna have a chance to preserve diversity and ecosystems. We humans are just as dependent on life on earth as life in the ocean. The plant world accounts for 80% of life on earth and provides 80% of our diet (60% of our energy intake comes from 3 grains alone – rice, corn and wheat).

A number of countries have initiated measures to preserve and ensure a more sustainable use of their natural resources. The problem is that the measures are not large enough. We do not have a planet B, as our smart young people tend to say.

It is humanity’s destruction of biological diversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19 to occur and have ripple effects far beyond the forests in both rich and poor countries.

How can tourism contribute to SDG 15 – Life on land?

With tourism comes the chance to experience nature. People want to see natural landscapes, pristine forests and exotic wildlife. Clean air and clean water. So it’s in the interest of the tourism industry to take care of this nature. One of the most important things we can do is leave nature alone.

We must be very careful about degrading nature. Although industry and agriculture are the biggest culprits when it comes to destroying nature, tourism also has its skeletons in the closet. Forest areas, mountain peaks, shorelines and islets are being developed by investors with dollar signs in their eyes. The question is whether they shoot themselves in the foot. Because the heyday of mass tourism is fortunately over, and we should find a way to pay nature back.

There are many projects that want to minimize their impact. Sustainable tourism can help preserve biological diversity, and generate income as an alternative livelihood for local communities. The tourism industry is therefore often a major driver for nature conservation.

Around the world, forests and nature are being destroyed at an alarming rate. This is especially true of tropical forest areas, rainforests where thousands of endemic plants and animals are marginalized and habitats are destroyed. The animals disappear. Maybe for forever.

Tourism helps to save nature and save animals. If you can make money on tourism related to wild animals and untouched nature, that can mean someone won’t build in that area, or that you preserve larger parts of the area. For example in national parks. What value do lions have for locals if tourists won’t come look at them? Why should parents of young children in Sumatra want tigers lurking around the neighborhood? Shouldn’t we be able to build a road because an owl nests in the area?

Many people see the animals as a plague and a nuisance. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assesses the status of species in a red list. The species on the Red List are grouped and ranked in different categories. Each category says something about how high the risk of the species is to become extinct, if the prevailing conditions persist (critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable). Only 98,500 species have been assessed and cataloged by the IUCN Red List, and 27,000 of these are at risk of extinction.

Tourism helps to preserve animals, but conservation efforts are also hampered by poaching and trade in wildlife, elephants being shot for ivory and similar crimes against animals happening all over the world. Since 1999, illegal trade in at least 7,000 animal and plant species has been reported in more than 120 countries.

Poachers are often local people in desperation, who put themselves in danger (both from the animals and from ranger patrols) to get a small share of the sales. An alternative and good income from tourism can help. It is also a larger and more sustainable long-term source of income than one-time poaching.

As long as wild animals provide fertile ground for tourism, you also have an extra incentive to preserve them. Conservation also means that local people not only see wildlife as an economic resource today, but as a long-term investment.

But it is a delicate balance. How much should humans invade the animals’ habitats before it is too much? Is it really okay for gorillas to have a crowd of people watching them eat? Is it okay for big boats to go up to the Arctic to watch polar bears, walruses and whales? What is the price nature has to pay?

Tourism provides income that contributes to conservation, but we must always keep this in mind. Many of you remember the polar bear in Svalbard who had to pay with her life because some cruise passenger came too close.

Some things are never okay. Trophy hunting is one of those things. People happily pay to kill bears in Canada or to shoot elephants, lions and water buffalos in Africa. Some argue that the meat ends up as food for the locals and that they only shoot sick animals. This is bullshit, at best constructed and adapted truths. It provides income, but animals should not be shot for someone to hang their head on a wall or get a great picture with the carcass.

Hunting as tourism is very controversial in general, and if you ask about my subjective opinion, I mean that you do not help nature by killing wild animals. Nature regulates itself best. By the way, many of these trophies are farm animals in enclosures. Go on a photo hunt instead. It is much more sympathetic and at least better for the animal.

Speaking of photos, we humans must abolish the offer of selfies with cubs or drugged adult animals such as tigers or bears. This is one of the most cruel things we do. Ever since tourists began to want unique souvenirs from their trips abroad, profit hunters have seen an opportunity to cash in on some dineros by letting tourists take pictures where they are holding wild animals. Elephant riding falls under the same bad category.  

The same goes for offering turtles, dolphins, dancing monkeys, crocodiles and snakes as entertainment. There’s a reason we no longer have animals in circuses. Admiring animals from a good distance is one thing, bothering them is not okay.

The famous covid-19 virus has spread to humans because the boundaries between wild animals and humans have been stretched too far. And some of you may have noticed that this ends up having consequences.  

It might be tempting for anyone who has read  Around the world in 80 days  by Jules Verne, but the elephants are not doing well. Make sure your company does not contribute to this.
It might be tempting for anyone who has read Around the world in 80 days by Jules Verne, but the elephants are not doing well. Make sure your company does not contribute to this.

We must remember that untouched nature is perhaps the best raw material a tourism company has, and we are dependent on nature to be able to live at all. We must be careful not to tamper with it too much. We have to look at our own routines, and our subcontractors.

Forests and mires are being removed to create food producing soil. (se norsk) Can we find other options? Humans have taken over the earth at the expense of wild animals, 96 percent of mammals are either humans (36 percent), or domestic animals (60 percent, mostly cattle and pigs). Wild animals make up a mere 4 percent of mammals.

That is why it is important that we preserve the ones we have left. And that is why we must remember to tread carefully.

SDG 16 – Peace, justice and strong institutions

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Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

How do we as a world community succeed in peace, justice and well-functioning institutions?

International peace and security have always been the main task of the UN. So it is natural to dedicate a sustainability goal to creating a peaceful and inclusive society. Sustainable development depends on peace. In 2018, 70 million people lived as refugees. This is the highest number that the UN has ever documented. Developments within this sustainability goal are going in the wrong direction.

A conflict brings a lot with it. People are losing access to public services and the government institutions in a country are difficult to operate and maintain as normal. If the judiciary in a country does not work, then the citizens also lose their legal security.

How can tourism contribute to SDG 16 – Peace, justice and well-functioning institutions?

The basis, or core, of tourism is billions of encounters between people with different cultural backgrounds. This means that the sector can promote multicultural tolerance and understanding across religions, and thus lay the foundation for more peaceful societies and the strengthening of local cultural identities.

Entrepreneurship and concepts based on tourism involve a large amount of cooperation across borders and regardless of physical distances. But for this to be sustainable, a stable balance in the world is required, without violence and conflicts. We need a harmonious world.

Sustainable tourism is transparent and honest. You can see where the money goes and not least how the situation in a destination is. One of the qualities of tourism is that locals get impulses from the outside world, and the world gets an insight into the local everyday lives.

Sustainable tourism “takes into account current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, and meets the needs of visitors, industry, the environment and host communities” (UNWTO). Responsible tourism, according to the Cape Town Declaration (Fabricius and Goodwin, 2002), means “creating better places for people to live and better places for people to visit”.

This means that we must have solid and dependable destinations. Responsible tourism that leaves money locally and includes the local community we visit economically, environmentally and socially through jobs, preservation of nature and cultural identity, helps to stabilize a destination. It creates value and pride locally.

A stable region has a much lower level of conflict and is safer for those who live there and those who visit. Mass tourism, on the other hand, can help increase the level of conflict. We have many examples of tourism going on in closed resorts in politically unstable areas. Many tourists travel in secluded “safe” areas in Myanmar, and people travel to countries that have been in constant war for years, such as areas in Turkey and Thailand.

When locals are not involved in decisions nor involved in the development and planning of a destination, then you are already on the wrong path. AND it often has major consequences for the local population who may lose their rights. There may be developments that take away their access to beaches, it may be the construction of large cruise ports that denies them access to the harbor, or obstruct views. There may also be lack of access to water and forests, or increase in prices. Properties become so expensive that locals are forced out of their own areas. And we have over-tourism, as described earlier.

All too often, power and decisions are taken away from the local destination. It may be the authorities and companies that prioritize profits at the expense of the local population and their surroundings. We have many cases of corruption in the planning and development of infrastructure and environmental standards, often without responsible monitoring.

We need more power to the locals and we need some umbrella organizations that take responsibility.

For example, The International Institute for Peace Through Tourism (IIPT), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and facilitating initiatives that contribute to international understanding and cooperation, a better environment and the preservation of cultural heritage. Through these kinds of initiatives, they want to contribute to a peaceful and sustainable world.

The IIPT is based on a vision that travel and tourism, the world’s largest industry, could become the world’s first global peace industry, based on the belief that every tourist is potentially an “ambassador for peace”.

We must remember that contact between locals and tourists is the core of what we do, and we must facilitate that.

SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals

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Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

How do we as a world community succeed in working together to achieve our goals?

Well, actually, we’re not doing that bad. But to succeed with the sustainability goals, we need new and strong partnerships. No one can do this alone. Everyone has to pull in the same direction. Governments, business and civil society must work together to achieve sustainable development. The sustainability goals will function as a common, global direction, and with prioritized effort, over the next 15 years.

Experience from the Millennium Development Goals shows that this type of targeted effort works. It depends on funding. In July 2015, UN member states agreed on a joint funding plan for the goals, at the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which has built a good foundation.

Now even more private actors have to step up. We’re still moving a little too slow. ESG investing, environmental, social and governance investing, is probably the most profitable in the long run. Investors need to focus on that area. New models are on the rise, and they all need to be seen together.

How can tourism and tourism contribute to SDG 17 – Cooperation to achieve the goals?

I wrote earlier that tourism is not really an industry. It is a combination of many industries that together enable what we call tourism. Because tourism combines industries, sectors, physical and intellectual boundaries, and requires cooperation to exist, tourism also has the ability to strengthen cooperation between the public and private sectors.

When private individuals invest in hotels and boats, the public sector has to get on board and invest in infrastructure and surrounding facilities. Both local, national and international authorities and organizations are founded on cooperation. Public/private partnership is in fact a necessary and fundamental foundation for the development of tourism, and there is an increased awareness of the role of tourism in relation to Agenda 2030.

Sustainable tourism in particular involves a collaboration that puts the host community first and where several actors work together for social benefits, environmental protection and good experiences for the guest. Creating sustainable development with a positive social, environmental and economic bottom line cannot be done alone.

The 17 sustainable goals cannot be solved in isolation – they are all connected.

A current example of such cooperation is how the EU is trying to align its borders with Covid-19. At a political level such as the EU and the EEA, international cooperation between national authorities, public institutions and regulatory agents creates principles that in turn support local decisions, implementations and evaluations.

The SDGs are ambitious goals that are implemented all over the world. All stakeholders from the private and public sector must contribute with their expertise and their specialties, which can be how the economy flows, how knowledge and skills are increased and link this with policy so that everyone has some rules and standards.

Tourism organizations that focus on marketing local destinations are often also responsible for managing the financing and delivery of sustainability measures together with local and national authorities.

State-sponsored DMOs (Destination Marketing Organization) and private tourism companies have a common goal of marketing destinations, and both want them to be better places to live and visit. Then it makes sense to work closely with each other in partnership.

Additionally, many destinations set long-term master plans that will implement guidelines and monitor progress. These must be integrated into a country’s other plans, interconnected as they are with security, infrastructure, investment, transportation, cultural monuments, conservation, communities and so on. For example, tourism will be integrated into conservation plans to help conserve fragile ecosystems.

Quite often, different partnerships agree to manage different parts of a plan, such as transport providers, accommodation, incoming operators or guide companies, etc. In sustainable tourism, strict management plans are also required. In that case, an objective third party is often brought in, for example for certification with a set framework and independent assessment for sustainability.

Tourism is a driving force for cooperation, and perhaps one of the sectors that is most built on cooperation. What happens next is up to you. Do you want to pick up the ball and make demands on those you work with? Do you want to encourage collaboration? Do you want to learn as much as possible yourself and contribute to those you meet also becoming better?

It is you and I who define our common future. We have to find a way to steer the ship in the right direction, together, to make that future worthy of passing on.

Reading tips for sustainability geeks.

Finally, here’s a good reading tip for those who want to learn more:

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has published a two-volume report entitled “Tourism for Development”, which illustrates the global reach and the positive effect of tourism on other sectors. The publication describes tourism as a driving force for sustainable development, and explains that tourism provides economic growth, quality of life, environmental protection, diverse cultural heritage and world peace.

The publication aims to raise awareness of the role of tourism in 2030, and it provides recommendations on how tourism can contribute to sustainable development and the SDG goals through sustainable development, and on the need to integrate sustainability into tourism policy, business practices and tourism behavior.

The end. Actually, it is not the end, it is the start.

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