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Asian tourism’s water consumption under the spotlight

Asian tourism’s water consumption under the spotlight
March 31, 2013

The need for tourism businesses to take increased responsibility for water use in the face of rising costs and a fast-depletion of this vital resource was one of the key messages presented to the recent Singapore International Water Festival, where water consumption among tourism operators in the Asia-Pacific region came under the spotlight.

Griffith University Professor of Sustainable Tourism, Susanne Becken, outlined significant threats posed by further growth of an industry that brings more and more visitors to destinations like China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Malaysia each year.

Professor Becken explained "the average guest accounts for up to 1000 litres of water per hotel night in many of the Asian countries, compared with an average 250 litres per hotel night in Australia.

"In a region where there is massive tourism growth, alongside major population growth and industrial development, water is an increasingly scarce resource and an increasingly polluted resource. The Asia Pacific region is facing major issues."

Professor Becken joined Dr Raj Rajan, Vice President of Global Sustainability for Eco-Lab, to present the findings of a policy paper on tourism and water at the World Water Day Distinguished Lecture.

The international policy paper has been developed by an industry-university research partnership during the past four months, supported by Brisbane-based EarthCheck Research Institute.

It presents a global context on water stress, availability and stewardship and discusses the implications for the tourism industry along the three dimensions of cost, availability and quality.

Professor Becken added "the cost of water is likely to increase and legislation that will initiate some form of water footprint is conceivable if not inevitable.

"Tourism businesses that are prepared to audit and manage their water consumption will have a competitive advantage when expected changes in water regulation and control come into play.

"Increasing water scarcity not only increases regional risk to climate change but also often leads to conflict."

According to the UN Documentation Centre on Water and Sanitation (2012), there have been more than 120,000 water-related disputes in China alone since 1990.

The policy paper findings place an onus on the Asia-Pacific tourism region to become more involved in understanding their role in water management. The Pacific Asia Travel Association predicts that international visitors to the region in 2014 could exceed half a billion.

Dr Rajan also explained "there is a growing realisation that tourism needs to take some responsibility to ensure that not only is water consumed efficiently and in the most sustainable way, but also to ensure that risk management procedures are in place that guarantee continuing water supply for the long-term viability of hospitality businesses, as well as the broader community.".

The paper also outlines how water efficiency can be achieved and undertakes a benchmarking review of hotels in the Asia Pacific using EarthCheck data

Managed and owned by EC3 Global, EarthCheck is an internationally recognised environmental management and certification program with members in over 70 countries. The company takes a scientific and systematic approach to risk mitigation and legislative requirements and is regarded as one of the world's best practice environmental sustainability leaders. 

EC3 Global
EC3 Global is an international tourism and environmental management and advisory group that was developed by the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC), the world's largest dedicated research centre specialising in sustainable tourism and research.

EarthCheck Research Institute
The EarthCheck Research Institute (ERI) is a not-for-profit company whose goal is to be a leading international centre for scientific excellence in sustainable tourism. The institute focuses on scientific research, education and capacity building to solve real-world challenges. 

Griffith University
Griffith University research on sustainable tourism is largely undertaken by its Centre for Tourism, Sport and Services Research (TSSR), part of the Griffith Business School. Through its activities, the Centre links university-based researchers with the business sector and organisations, as well as local, state and federal government bodies. 

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