Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) demonstrate how large the tourism industry is in the UK, and the potential it has to have a positive impact on local areas and communities.
The report notes that there is no sole ‘tourism industry’ but rather a set of industries, such as accommodation, food and drink and transport services. As a result, it is difficult to measure the economic value of tourism. The ONS measured the impact of tourists by using the Tourism Satellite Account to account for both supply and demand.
The research, which looks at the value of tourism in 2011, found that across the whole of the UK, tourists spent over £120 billion, with just under a fifth being spent by overseas residents visiting the UK. Unsurprisingly, the ONS figures show that London was the top region for tourism expenditure, with spending in the capital more the twice that of any other UK region.
If tourists make a conscious decision to be sustainable whilst on holiday the figures demonstrate how the money could be used to support the local area, communities and the environment. In the European Union small and mid-sizes businesses make up 90% of the tourism sector and will often benefit communities by providing jobs for locals and keeping the money in the area.
Sustainable travellers could also benefit from a proposed voluntary European Tourism Quality Principles set out by the European commission. The principles aim to ensure that tourists travelling to EU member states get value for their money.
One of the principles includes tourism service providers making information on local customs, heritage, traditions, sustainability aspects and more available to consumers. Having this additional knowledge can help travellers make informed decisions about how to spend their money and what to do whilst on holiday.
The other principles include training all employees as appropriate, applying a consumers satisfaction policy, documenting a cleaning and maintenance plan and ensuring that information provided is correct, reliable, clear and accessible.