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Managing the Environmental Impacts of Tourism

Date: 
07.24.2017
 
The travel and tourism industry is one of the fastest growing and most dynamic industries on Earth. It's roughly 10% of the global economy, and we expect this growth to continue over the next 30 years. Much of it is happening in places that were once off the beaten path but are now mainstream destinations—countries such as Columbia, Brazil, India, and China. 
 
But with an uptick in tourism comes a larger burden of environmental impacts that each country must bear. The stream of tourists, for example, uses more energy and water and also produces more solid waste than do the local populations. Many destinations in developing economies do not have the infrastructure in place to absorb these extraordinary impacts on local resources and are unprepared to manage them going forward.
 
Here at the Center for Health and the Global Environment, we know that to prevent environmental and health crises before they happen, we need forward-looking science that both anticipates problems and offers solutions. Megan Epler Wood, Director of our International Sustainable Tourism Initiative, creates knowledge and tools designed to manage the growth of tourism worldwide. 
 
At the heart of her efforts is “Environmental Management of International Tourism Development,” a course she teaches at Harvard Extension School, and which students around the world can attend in person or online during the Fall 2017 semester. 
 
The course examines how an increase in impacts from tourism can put extraordinary pressure on local infrastructure systems and explores how the entire travel and tourism industry can absorb and manage this difficult reality. 
 
"You would think that these impacts have been measured, but surprisingly the data is scarce. This course has been a source of data for others to use around the world,” says Megan. “So much so that when you write your papers you’ll be involved in a larger set of data brought together in my new book, Sustainable Tourism for a Finite Planet."
 
Every student can be involved in this process, and Megan hopes you’ll join her online or in the classroom to join.
 
To learn more about the course and to get a feel for Megan’s teaching style, watch her 9-minute video that introduces the course.