The theme of this year’s World Tourism Day (September 27, 2013) is Tourism & Water: Protecting our Common Future. The impact of the tourism industry and tourism establishments to help steward and manage water resources sustainably can’t be underestimated.
Included in the discussion on World Tourism Day is the role of sanitation, particularly given the urgent need of the 2.5 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation, and the 1 billion people defecating in the open.
Human waste management and water treatment is probably not part of the curriculum at hotel management school. Maybe it should be.
And the issue of open defecation on beaches and in other public areas can be a taboo subject for the hospitality industry, departments of tourism and other entities seeking to promote their countries to potential visitors. Perhaps it shouldn’t be.
Both in terms of dollars and “sense,” sanitation is something the tourism industry can ill-afford to ignore. Beyond the significant environmental and health consequences to countries, consider the economic losses to tourism due to inadequate sanitation: In India alone, poor sanitation results in a loss of US$260 million in tourism dollars annually (see full infographic).
Part of the challenge in addressing global issues of sanitation is encouraging action on multiple fronts from multiple actors to help remove the stigma around a subject matter that can be unpleasant and that can make us a little uncomfortable. So who better than the hospitality industry – experts in making people comfortable – to champion not just the need for proper access to sanitation but the need for all of us to change our attitudes about this issue and openly and unashamedly talk about approaches to end open defecation.
On World Tourism Day, it seems especially important to remember that where we “go” really does matter.