people on body of water across white yacht

Coastal and Marine Tourism in the Future

Tourism provides the primary income source for many coastal communities; yet this sector often fails to take account of nature when making decisions.

The Ocean Panel seeks to transform the industry by 2030 in order to bring forth high quality economic opportunities while at the same time protecting nature and revitalizing culture. In this webinar, some actions already taken towards this aim will be highlighted.

1. Increasing awareness of climate change

As the global economy continues to struggle, tourism has proven resilient. It remains an essential source of foreign revenue for countries offering sun, sea and sand (‘3S) tourism as well as small island developing states (SIDS). Unfortunately, tourism can also be one of the primary contributors to environmental degradation through boat traffic pollution and waste disposal practices, air emissions from yacht and cruise ship gas emissions, coastal erosion caused by land activities and coastal protection efforts.

There are plenty of opportunities to transform marine and coastal tourism into a more environmentally sustainable form of travel, based on ecosystem principles with the aim of ensuring ocean-based tourist activities do not damage natural environments. To do this, however, will require changing mindsets across the tourism supply chain; after all it’s in their self-interest to promote environmentally sound tourism that contributes to conservation while offering income opportunities and improved quality of life for local communities.

As a first step, tourism policies, plans and product development should focus on attracting visitors who seek genuine interactions between nature and culture of their destination, and those willing to pay extra for this experience. Furthermore, more innovative and scalable business models must be created that enable tourism businesses to meet these objectives.

2. Increasing demand for ecotourism

Ecotourism has seen rapid global growth as more people become concerned with protecting the planet’s resources while traveling in ways that won’t damage local wildlife and ecosystems. This type of tourism involves visiting natural areas to learn more about their ecosystems, cultural traditions and ways of life in order to understand how we can live harmoniously with nature while still enjoying all that nature offers us. Ecotourism also raises awareness of protecting Earth’s resources while inspiring individuals to make sustainable choices to do their part and make positive contributions towards sustainability.

Ecotourism’s rise has led to an increase in marine-based tourism as well. Unfortunately, however, many obstacles must first be overcome before marine and coastal tourism can flourish; some key ones being sustainability, infrastructure development and facilities enhancement, education outreach to local communities as well as marketing the economic benefits of marine/coastal tourism in order to encourage tourists visit these destinations.

Though coastal and marine tourism face many challenges, there is hope for its future. The global community is committed to creating a more sustainable world, including setting sustainability goals for marine tourism. Collaboration among all involved stakeholders such as governments, the private sector and communities can ensure we develop marine and coastal tourism that is both regenerative and sustainable; so that future generations may continue enjoying its beauty while supporting livelihoods that rely on it.

3. Increasing demand for wellness holidays

Wellness holidays have emerged as an effective strategy for increasing coastal and marine tourism sustainability. This trend is being propelled by multiple forces, including relaxation and reconnecting with nature as well as an increase in overall health and wellbeing. Ecotourism also plays an integral part in driving this trend by offering people opportunities to enjoy nature while supporting local communities and businesses.

Marine tourism can be an effective means of promoting biodiversity and the benefits of healthy oceans, yet many forms of this industry still cause serious environmental harm. Tourism activities that fail to take into account both nature and scale of marine environments may have devastating repercussions for both fauna as well as infrastructure necessary for tourism development (high confidence). Geoengineering approaches aimed at mitigating climate change through manipulation of ocean waters (such as fertilization with nutrients or binding CO2 with enhanced alkalinity or direct carbon dioxide injection) have major ecological and socioeconomic ramifications on marine tourism resources (high confidence).

Sustainable coastal and marine tourism relies upon innovative business models that take into account both visitor needs and those of local residents. This may involve including biodiversity into all aspects of experience – accommodation and activities alike; using eco-friendly food production methods in tourist facilities; encouraging participation in conservation efforts by tourists, as well as creating technologies and services to keep pace with ever-evolving consumer requirements.

4. Increasing demand for water sports

An ocean ecosystem that supports coastal tourism is essential to its future sustainability, and beach holidays (with a game of online poker on any of the sites mentioned on and recreational activities such as diving, sports fishing and cruising account for at least 10% of global tourism revenue today. They also represent significant sources of employment in many Small Island Development States as well as driving economic development within coastal destinations.

However, tourism activities have an immense effect on natural marine resources. Tourism itself often results in direct impacts such as hotel constructions and infrastructure expansion; boats utilization; overfishing or increased marine littering which should be carefully managed to avoid overuse of natural resources and protect biodiversity.

At a local level, marine tourism must be managed in ways that are innovative and environmentally sustainable. One such way would be introducing a no-touch policy which reduces human impact on natural marine environments; similarly using biodegradable materials can help cut wasteful consumption of resources by tourists.

Another key concern for marine tourism is financial sustainability. This can be accomplished by increasing user fees, creating conservation trust funds to provide funding from alternative sources, and investing in value chain analysis to reduce leakage. Finally, supporting local community participation in tourism projects while integrating community benefits into business models should not be neglected.

As the world prepares to mark this Year of Blue, tourism must also meet this goal. Doing so not only benefits nature, but also hotels, cruise ships and the industry supply chain who depend on picturesque spots to draw and retain guests.

5. Increasing demand for sustainable tourism

IBM conducted a recent study that revealed 54% of consumers would pay more for products or services which are socially responsible and promote environmental sustainability, providing great news for sustainable tourism but it comes with its own challenges. Working closely with local communities ensures the benefits are shared equitably while protecting ocean ecosystems is critical both to quality tourism experiences as well as livelihoods nearby beaches.

Coastal regions are home to some of the most fragile ecosystems on Earth, such as coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses, and their inhabitants rely heavily on them for food, shelter and income. Because coastal regions are especially susceptible to climate change impacts like increased flooding, erosion and periods of drought – impacts which have direct and indirect consequences for tourism industries.

Tourism remains an effective and accessible way for people to connect with nature, but the dominant mass tourism model does not take ocean sustainability into account and has shown detrimental effects on marine wildlife and habitats. To achieve truly nature-positive marine tourism requires all stakeholders–from governments and businesses to visitors and tourists themselves–changing their mindset and taking appropriate actions.

Tourism should focus on attracting visitors who engage with nature and the communities they visit sincerely, contributing to regeneration efforts within their local environments, economies and communities. This should be reflected in policies, plans and product developments driven by government leadership alongside leadership from industries and communities.