A new report from the International Tourism Partnership lists the top twelve priority tourism destinations with the highest water risk.
The Destination Water Risk Index  aims to provide the hotel sector and wider tourism industry and stakeholders with cutting-edge intelligence on water risk by priority tourism destinations. Bali tops the list which includes destinations in China, India, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and the Philippines.
The Index also lists the destinations where water is severely undervalued and are therefore a risk for operators due to the extreme likelihood that water pricing will increase - in some cases by more than 60 times the current value.
Launching the Index at the World Water Week event in Stockholm, ITP Director Madhu Rajesh said, “Everyone at World Water Week knows that demand for freshwater is likely to exceed supply by 40 percent by 2030 and we are all here seeking solutions to mitigate that. The hotel sector recognises its responsibility to better manage water. Realising that island nations and tourism destinations can be those most prone to water shortage, particularly where the tourism season overlaps with the driest months, we have captured this critical data for our members and the wider tourism industry.
“Last year, ITP launched four Goals for 2030  for the hotel sector which include embedding water stewardship throughout their portfolios. The Index represents a vital tool for hotels and other tourism stakeholders to have in their armoury when they examine their growth strategy.
“Large-scale tourism growth is forecast in future years. Increased resource use will mean water shortage becomes a challenge for tourism businesses, leading to operational issues, cost increases and reputational risks.
“Solutions exist to prevent those risks  by adopting a water stewardship approach. ITP’s members have shown – for example in Cape Town – that by working collaboratively and employing a range of measures water scarcity can be mitigated. This Index, with a first-of-its kind dataset, will help developers, Corporate Responsibility (CR) teams and property managers evaluate risks and take action in other high-risk destinations, to help prevent the next Cape Town and work towards sustainable growth of the hotel industry in water stressed destinations.”
The Index is a first-of-its-kind dataset based on the destinations named by hotel groups as priorities for growth, therefore the list represents vital intelligence for the industry to factor into its plans for growth and destination management.
The DWRI is the result of a collaboration between ITP (project lead), Ecolab (sponsor and data provider) and Greenview (data analysis) to overlay existing water risk and hotel industry databases. The Index seeks to help hotel developers, companies, their properties and wider tourism stakeholders to better understand and address their local water risk and its financial implications in the largest hotel markets in the world.
Presenting the Index, Emilio Tenuta Vice President of Corporate Sustainability, Ecolab said, “The Index identifies 12 locations with the highest overall risk when factoring water stress, future water cost increase risk, water usage intensity per occupied room, hotel supply, and hotel pipeline growth. These destinations should be prioritised by companies when designing their water stewardship strategies.
“Additionally, we’ve identified those destinations which are most susceptible to a water risk premium, because water is so undervalued. We project that in some locations the premium could result in the price of water being more than 64 times higher than it currently is, based on average cost / risk analysis globally. Businesses should also take this into account.”
The report includes a range of impact stories from hotels around the world describing water saving actions they've taken to reduce their water footprint and impact on local communities. These stand as best practice examples which can be replicated by others.
Chair of ITP’s Board of leading hotel group members , Wolfgang M. Neumann said: “As a responsible industry demonstrating its leadership on the Sustainable Development Goals, water is a critical issue for the hotel sector to address. It is imperative we do all we can to protect this vital resource for generations to come. We must examine our supply chains and embed water stewardship at all levels to ensure water-use efficiency, sustainable withdrawals and a consistent supply of freshwater thereby helping to reduce the number of people affected by water scarcity around the world.”
The DWRI report is free for anyone to download  from the International Tourism Partnership website, as part of their charitable remit to share resources and best practice. Other resources, including ITP’s Water Stewardship Report , which outlines the six steps hotels must take to embed water stewardship, are also freely available.
ITP is now convening its 13 leading hotel members through its Water Working Group to identify projects which would become models for collaborative working to reduce water scarcity in local communities.