Rethinking Tourism

World International Day for Tourism is celebrated every year on 27 September to foster consciousness among the people of the importance of tourism and its financial, political, cultural, and social impacts. It was designated in September 1979 by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).[1] The General Assembly of UNWTO decided in 1997 that World Tourism Day would be hosted and celebrated each year in a different country with a new theme.[2] The tourism day theme in 2022 was “Rethinking Tourism”, and celebrated in Bali, Indonesia.[3] Before the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism became one of the major economic sectors; however, it also became one of the most affected sectors[4] The pandemic massively affected the livelihood of people directly connected to the tourism sector, as 100-120 million jobs were reported to be at risk globally.[5]

International tourism is “now” showing signs of recovery as the tourism barometer recorded 250 million international tourist arrivals in the first five months of 2022, which was 77 million from January to May 2021. It shows a 46% recovery from the pre-pandemic levels (2019).[6] In some regions, the tourist arrival is even above the pre-pandemic levels. Therefore, this year’s tourism day theme was to focus on the future of the tourism industry. The theme aimed “to inspire the debate around rethinking tourism for development, including through education and jobs, and tourism’s impact on the planet and opportunities to grow more sustainably”.[7]



The theme of the 2022 tourism day was “Rethinking Tourism”

The tourism industry not only contributes to the growth of the economy and the creation of jobs but also adversely affects the environment if it is not planned and managed properly. As tourism grows, the demand for more infrastructure, such as airports, roads, hotels, resorts, restaurants, golf courses, shops, etc., also increases. [8] It also exerts pressure on the use of resources such as of water, land (forests, fuels, wildlife, wetland, etc.), and food.[9] Such activities result in the degradation of the environment by increasing pollution and depletion of natural resources, thus contributing to climate change.[10] These adverse effects push us to adopt sustainable tourism, which is “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.”[11] This definition shows that sustainability not only means taking care of the environment, but also the economic and social aspects that come with it.

These adverse effects of climate change can be reduced by rethinking our development strategy, which is not sustainable in any way

However, tourism is not only contributing to global warming and climate change but is also negatively impacted by these changes. As can be seen in Pakistan, tourism is highly vulnerable to environmental risks and natural disasters. The devastating floods caused by the melting of the glaciers due to global warming and heavy rains during the monsoon season have not only affected 33 million people[12] but also swept away bridges (at least 240), roads (3150 miles),[13] and dozens of hotels.[14] Besides this, it will also cause food insecurity as nearly half of the country’s crops were washed away[15], resulting in high food inflation. It is also predicted that due to the high risk of waterborne diseases, Pakistan’s death toll is expected to rise after the floods.[16] These natural disasters (floods and waterborne diseases) will affect the number of domestic and inbound tourists in the country.[17] [18] Damage to tourism services such as hotels and roads, especially in northern areas, shows the concerned authorities’ lack of planning and management.

These adverse effects of climate change can be reduced by rethinking our development strategy, which is not sustainable in any way, as can be seen from the construction of hotels and other buildings on the riverbed. There is a dire need to adopt sustainable development methods in the future. The government must devise and implement strict programs and policies, such as land zoning and resilient infrastructure development,[19] to restrict expansions and encroachments in flood zones and high-risk areas. In addition, an early warning system needs to be installed to reduce the risks of sudden outbursts and floods in these areas. The country needs to develop its capacity to deal with natural disasters and such calamities by working on pre and post disaster management to reduce the losses to humans, property, the environment, and the economy.