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Economic and Social Policies, PUBLICATIONS, Structural and Cohesion Policies

Water Equity in tourism

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In theory…

Article 31 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to clean and accessible water, adequate for the health and well-being of the individual and family, and no one shall be deprived of such access or quality of water due to individual economic circumstance.”

In practice…

Some 884 million people lack sufficient access to water and sanitation globally. In many tourism destinations in the global South, lack of infrastructure, government capacity and resources means that communities struggle to meet their daily water needs. The physically burdensome and time-consuming task of fetching water usually falls to women, which prevents them for engaging in other activities that could help them pull themselves and their families out of poverty. Meanwhile, neighbouring resorts and hotels consume vast quantities of water in the servicing of guest rooms, landscaped gardens, swimming pools and golf courses.

Do we need further evidence?

A report[1] launched by Tourism Concern reveals the stark inequities of water access and consumption between tourist resorts and local people in developing countries. The report Water Equity in Tourism – A Human Right, A Global Responsibility, demands concerted action by governments and the tourism sector to protect community water rights over tourist luxury.

Featuring research from Bali, The Gambia, Zanzibar, and Goa and Kerala, South India, the report finds that the unsustainable appropriation, depletion and pollution of water by poorly regulated tourism are threatening the environment, while undermining living standards, livelihoods and development opportunities of impoverished local communities.

These communities often remain excluded from the benefits of tourism, but also include small businesses trying to earn a living from the sector in a context where government policies tend to favour international hotels and tour operators over local entrepreneurs. This scenario is leading to social conflict and resentment, while threatening the sustainability of the tourism sector itself.

It’s time for the tourism and hotel sector to take responsibility for its water use and address the wider impacts of its consumption beyond the hotel walls.

The report offers nine Principles of Water Equity in Tourism (WET-principles) for governments, the tourism sector and civil society, as well as detailed recommendations for each set of stakeholders.

Further information:

EP Library briefing: Water scarcity in least developed countries

EP Library summary: All-inclusive holidays? No, thanks!

More about Tourism Concern’s campaign for a UK Commission on Business, Human Rights and Environment


[1] The report is available after easy registration.

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