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Sustainable tourism gets more complicated

Sustainability in tourism recently became much more complicated says Griffith University Climate Response Program Research Director and Ecotourism Foundation Chair Professor Ralf Buckley.

Professor Buckley said until recently the key issue for sustainability in tourism was simply to introduce existing corporate and government environmental management tools.

“Just as the tourism industry was beginning to pay attention to the basics, it’s been distracted by rising travel costs, changing travel markets and the likely effects of climate change,” Professor Buckley said.

“The economy, society and environment worldwide face some giant changes over the next couple of decades.

Professor Buckley will speak at the Griffith Business School Sustainability Seminar, Climate Change and Sustainable Tourism, on Thursday, May 29 from 5.30pm – 7.30pm at the Gold Coast Exhibition and Convention Centre, Broadbeach.

“One of the biggest concerns for airlines and long-haul international destinations, such as Australia, is greenhouse gases generated by tourism that need to be mitigated, increasing travel costs which are already rising due to other reasons.”

Changing climates where people live, as well as where they go on holiday is another issue.

“People who currently travel to escape a cold wet winter or hot dry summer may in future just stay home,” Professor Buckley said.

“As mountains get less snow, ski resorts are repositioning as four-season mountain resort-residential developments, with as many visitors in summer as winter, and revenue streams relying more on retail and land sales than lift tickets.”

In forest areas, including national parks, the biggest concern is drought and fire, which damages infrastructure and leads to loss of access if areas are closed for safety or regeneration.

In tropical and subtropical destinations there may be more storms and floods at some times but shortages of drinking water at others; coral bleaching from hotter and more acidic oceans; and medical risks from heatstroke to pathogens, disease vectors and poisonous animals extending their ranges.

“There may be wider social and environmental impacts as well as economic costs and equity issues, and these will have to be estimated and balanced,” Professor Buckley said. 

Following his presentation Professor Buckley will lead an expert panel discussion on whether tourism enterprises can survive and prosper in this changing environment.

Panellists include National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility Director Professor Jan McDonald, Tourism and Transport Forum Australia Public Affairs and Research General Manager Olivia Wirth and EC3 Global CEO Stewart Moore.

Further information on the seminar can be found at


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