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Framework for ocean tourism to be sustainable, resilient for local communities


The communities living around oceans are already threatened by a variety of factors and even though ocean tourism does provide entertainment to a section of society, it may end up hampering the ones who are living around it, due to negligence. A new report about ocean and tourism has said that there needs to be a framework that encourages taking action to reduce the negative impact of tourism on the local environment and thus build resilient steps to threats and future shocks, especially with the possibility of climate change being very high.

Coastal and marine tourism constitutes approximately 50 per cent of all global tourism, equal to $4.6 trillion or 5.2 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP). Tourism constitutes the largest economic sector for most Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and many coastal states.

In a business-as-usual scenario, coastal and marine tourism is expected to represent the largest ocean economy sector by 2030 (measured by GDP) and employ approximately 8.5 million people, second only to small-scale fisheries in terms of employment.

“(However), the health and beauty of these ecosystems, the very thing that draws people to coastal and marine destinations, continue to be threatened by tourism itself,” pointed out the report titled `Opportunities for transforming coastal and marine tourism: Towards sustainability, regeneration and resilience`.

Coastal and marine tourism is highly dependent on the quality of coastal and marine ecosystems to attract visitors, but the continued depletion and degradation of these natural assets is putting the sustainability and viability of the industry, along with the local communities that rely on it, at risk, said the report released coinciding with the UN Ocean Conference with more than 150 countries collectively agreeing to scale up science-based and innovative actions to address the ocean emergency.

Pointing out that the current model of coastal and marine tourism is inherently unsustainable, characterised by high levels of economic leakage, seasonality and vulnerability to natural and economic shocks, the authors of the report said, “Mass tourism in and around coastal cities leads to higher costs of living and relatively lower purchasing power for many locals.

“This situation is exacerbated by the seasonal nature of coastal and marine tourism, in particular in islands, contributing to job insecurity, low wages and high workload, affecting the wellbeing of locals and their access to resources.”

The report also warned that systemic change will not occur without significant long term policy and regulatory commitments from governments to attract and support investments targeting sustainable and regenerative forms of tourism and provide the stability required by the private sector to confidently pursue new business models.

Drawing on 32 case studies and examples from 23 countries to identify a set of priorities designed to help catalyse systemic change in destination-wide management through strategic investment and intervention by governments to support sustainable recovery from the Covid pandemic, the report provides a holistic assessment of the current state of coastal and marine tourism.

Most importantly, it proposes a framework that encourages action simultaneously across three pillars: Reducing the negative impacts of tourism on the local environment, economy and community; regenerating ecosystems, local markets and communities, and building resilience to threats and future shocks and crises.

The lead author of the report is Eliza Northop, who led a team of 23 experts from across the globe. It had two Indian experts, Joyashree Roy and Shreya Some, one a professor and another a researcher at the Jadavpur University in Kolkata. Both are currently working with the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand.

Also Read: Soil pollution raises the risk of heart diseases: Study

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