It’s World Tourism Day 2013  and the theme for this year’s celebrations is Tourism and Water.
Earlier this month in World Water Week  the International Tourism Partnership  (ITP) published a startling report into the global Water Risk Assessment  which highlighted some regions where water scarcity could soon become an issue.
Now, joining with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, the ITP which brings together the world’s leading international hotel companies to provide a voice for environmental and social responsibility within the industry, urges all tourism stakeholders to make water sustainability a priority.
The Water Risk Assessment study – the first of its kind – was conducted for ITP by the Stockholm International Water Institute  (SIWI) and provides an overview of how freshwater may become a constraint to the hotel industry in specific regions in terms of maintaining current operations, as well as future growth. It highlights a range of potential impacts the industry could suffer due to shifts in the availability and quality of water resources, and points out potential areas where additional costs can be expected. The report also suggests possible mitigating measures that can be taken to reduce negative water impacts.
Freshwater is becoming a scarce resource in many parts of the world due to overconsumption, pollution, climate change impacts and poor management of this precious resource.
Analyses in Dubai, Shanghai, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro and India’s Golden Triangle found these regions to be under threat due to several of these factors, and that the risk could soon impact the hotel industry.
Particularly in the case of Dubai, excessive consumption of groundwater and increasing pressure on desalination facilities could in a worst case scenario lead to severe water shortages in the near future.
China, in certain target areas faces multi-faceted risks including water shortage and increasing pollution that can seriously affect destination appeal from a visitor point of view, plus potential price hikes for increased costs of water treatment. In Shanghai and Beijing climate change impacts heighten the risk for flooding disasters, potentially threatening water infrastructure as well as hotel facilities.
In India’s Golden triangle over-extraction and climate change impacts risk limiting available fresh water resources. Emerging legislation is also expected to put increased demands on private sector water users.
In parts of Brazil changed runoff patterns could cause bottlenecks in both energy and food supply affecting the hotel industry. Substandard conditions related to drinking water in favelas around Rio can affect availability of hotel staff due to health complications.
The 2009 report ‘Charting Our Water Future’ warned that by 2030, demand for freshwater may outstrip supply by 40 per cent. With rising stress on water resources and the competing needs of businesses and communities, effective water resource management is now crucial to a hotel’s ability and licence to operate.
Today, as the most important international observance day for tourism, WTD 2013 is a worldwide platform to underscore tourism's responsibility and commitment in ensuring a sustainable water future.
Marking the event UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “This year’s World Tourism Day highlights the responsibility of the tourism industry to safeguard and intelligently manage water. In this International Year of Water Cooperation, I urge tourism establishments to cut consumption and improve waste management and I call on individuals to play their part by making environmentally conscious choices when they travel.”
UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said, “World Tourism Day offers a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on water both as an asset and as a resource and on the actions needed to face up to the water challenge. I urge all those involved in the tourism sector to join our global World Tourism Day campaign and continue to devise innovative solutions to ensure tourism contributes to sustainable access to water resources worldwide.”
Fran Hughes , Head of Programmes at ITP, said, “Whilst there is a lot of information available to hoteliers about water efficiency, what has been lacking are clear facts on water issues in specific areas. As such, it is sometimes hard to build the case for investment and action. We hope the findings of our report will help hoteliers to understand the local context where they operate and develop appropriate water management strategies. ITP’s water working group continues to collaborate to build a strong business case to hoteliers, owners and developers to implement future-proofed water strategies and move the industry from a position of simple water efficiency to true water stewardship.”
As part of the WTD celebrations in the Maldives, a high-level Think Tank on Tourism and Water will bring together public and private sector tourism stakeholders, leading experts on water preservation and media experts to debate key issues encompassing the global water challenge.
For multiple examples of best practice in water conservation within the industry, Green Hotelier  is a great resource for everyone whose business or interests lies in sustainability and hospitality.
UNWTO invites all to participate and share their events and follow the official WTD celebrations online: wtd.unwto.org .