France has emerged the world leader in promoting sustainable tourism, in a new report which ranks which countries are best at preserving their social, cultural and environmental capital.
In The Economist’s Sustainable Tourism Index, the podium is occupied by Europe, with France, Germany and the UK taking up the top three spots.
“Of the ten countries included in the index, only France and Germany have taken concerted and sustained action at the national level to develop policy, set targets and monitor results,” researchers write.
France, for instance, sets specific targets and guidelines for carrying capacity and tourist transport, while Germany is lauded for its mandatory environmental impact assessments which aim to reduce energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s estimated that tourism contributes about five percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions — a figure that is expected to grow in the coming years, notes the report.
Likewise, overflowing tourist numbers have led to the physical degradation of several natural and historical wonders –Thailand’s Koh Tachai island, and Peru’s Machu Picchu, just some examples.
But even in the top-scoring countries, authors note that implementation of sustainable practices and monitoring is fragmented.
“In no country, say experts interviewed for the study, is sustainable tourism policy sufficiently integrated between national, local and regional levels.”
But where nationwide policies fall short, NGOs and industry groups can come in, authors add, with accreditation schemes, training programs and advocacy campaigns taking a lead role in promoting sustainable and responsible tourism.
To bring attention to the need to foster responsible and environmentally sensitive tourism plans, the UN declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
For the ranking, analysts looked at indicators like political and regulatory environment; environmental sustainability; socio-cultural sustainability; economic sustainability; and travel and tourism industry.
Here are the top-scoring countries on the sustainability index: