EU cities join forces for more sustainable tourism

Ships in Nyhavn at sunset, Copenhagen, Denmark. [Frank Fischbach/Shutterstock]

Climate change and tourism are closely interlinked. Local and regional authorities across Europe are working together to improve waste management to make tourism more sustainable in their towns.

Up to 26 cities, including Copenhagen in Denmark, Lanzarote in Spain and Krakow in Poland, have signed a charter of commitments that reflects the intention of local and regional authorities to reduce waste generation and transition towards a circular economy.

Tourism is the third largest economic sector in the EU and is closely interlinked with other important areas like culture, food and even sports.

But tourism, as well as other leisure activities, is associated with a significant environmental impact resulting from infrastructure, transport and waste generation, as well as water and energy consumption.

“Tourism has an important socio-economic impact but also negative consequences due to unsustainable consumption,” project manager Michelle Perello explained during the final conference of the Urban Waste project for waste management in tourist cities, last week in Brussels.

Urban Waste aims to assist policymakers in answering the challenges of booming tourism in European cities, including high levels of unsustainable resource consumption and waste production.

Waste generation is a particular challenge for local and regional authorities due to the fact that waste created by tourists largely exceeds that of residents. The significant seasonal variations in waste quantity and composition are also problematic and the same happens during sports events, for instance.

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By signing the Charter, authorities commit to reduce waste generation and improve waste management from tourists and tourism providers, including by promoting sustainable consumption.

“We have a lot to do to make our city not only beautiful but also clean,” said Mercedes Van Volcem, representative of the city of Bruges, which also joined the initiative.

Cities and regions engage in raising awareness and motivate tourists to act responsibly.

Nanette Mapertuis, on behalf of the Tourism Agency of the Collectivity of Corsica, explained that her town is committed to eco-responsible practices on waste, energy and water management but they will also engage with the main actors: the tourists themselves.

Boosting exchanges

As much as tourism can represent an ecological threat, it can play a part in fostering environmental protection.

Therefore, the Charter also aims at reinforcing “the attractiveness of the territories” and to boost local development “by creating new green jobs and services locally,” in light of a UN call for a more economic, social and environmentally sustainable tourism.

The project aims for the strategies to be adapted to the specificities of towns and regions involved. Therefore, one of the core elements of Urban Waste is boosting participatory solutions, including stakeholders and citizens, as well as the exchange of good practices between authorities.

Furthermore, a gender perspective has been applied throughout the project, on consumer behaviours and decision making. Those pilot cities who were the most gender equal and gender sensitive also made the greatest gross CO2 reductions, Susan Buckingham, Gender Auditor of the project explained.

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The project wants to “honour all those local and regional authorities who decided to go beyond conventional. Who can be considered as frontrunners in making tourism more sustainable,” said Francoise Bonnet, Secretary General of ACR+, the main organisation behind the project.

“Cities and regions in Europe are full of good practices, some of them considered even best practices while being replicable solutions and ideas. These practices, solutions and ideas must go beyond the limits and borders of where they were created,” Bonnet stressed.

[Edited by Sam Morgan]


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