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Download the full report | Read about our approach to this research | Read the Principles of Water Equity in Tourism | Read the recommendations from the report | Water Equity in Tourism homepage

Drawing on the findings of new report, Water Equity in Tourism - A Human Right, A Global Responsibility, Tourism Concern offers the following recommendations for government, industry and civil society stakeholders in order to encourage and support them to:

These recommendations are summarised in our 9 Principles of Water Equity in Tourism

Recommendations for Governments

  1. Governments must implement their fundamental duty and international legal obligations to uphold, fulfil and protect the right of their citizens to water and sanitation for personal, domestic and essential livelihood needs. This includes protection against infringements by tourism businesses. The right to water and sanitation should not come second to, or be compromised by, tourism development.
  2. Governments should sensitise tourism businesses operating locally and/or overseas of their business responsibility to respect human rights and offer guidance in this regard. Read about our campaign for a UK Commission on Business, Human Rights and the Environment
  3. Destination governments should not privilege allocation of water supplies or infrastructure to the tourism sector and should take steps to ensure public supplies are not appropriated by superior tourism sector infrastructure to the detriment of local communities.
  4. A clear regulatory and institutional framework for the coordinated development and implementation of sustainable integrated water and tourism planning and management should be established. Such a framework should provide for the adequate resourcing of clearly defined departmental mandates, roles and responsibilities.
  5. Any such regulatory framework should incorporate measures governing water provision by private suppliers, including water tankers and providers of borewells. It should include measures and guidelines to encourage groundwater replenishment and protect watersheds.
  6. Land use planning should be based on an assessment of available freshwater resources, which should be a key criterion in establishing tourism carrying capacities. Such assessments should take into account: the water consumption and impacts of all tourism businesses and services; consumption discrepancies between high and lowend establishments; infrastructure capacities (including sewage, waste and electricity); population growth; urbanisation; competing livelihood needs; food security; climate change; and wider watershed degradation.
  7. Land use, tourism and water planning and decision-making should be undertaken transparently and participatively, with involvement of all relevant stakeholders, including communities, tourism and other large water consumers, such as agriculture. Special efforts should be taken to involve women, given their increased vulnerability to adverse water impacts, and other marginalised groups, such as indigenous peoples.
  8. Clear financing and incentives structures should be established with tariffs set according to size of establishment and rates of consumption, along with measures to recover user fees. In order to build upon the poverty alleviating potential of tourism, measures (such as affordable tariffs and improved water infrastructure) should be introduced to support water access for small-scale tourism entrepreneurs.
  9. Destination governments should raise awareness of water issues among the tourism industry, local communities and tourists by communicating regulations and guidance.
  10. Adequate punitive action should be taken against tourism businesses found to be in breach of regulations. Good practice should be championed and publicised.
  11. Governments should be accountable and responsive in respect to water equity in tourism, with a clearly identified department and process to investigate and redress community grievances.
  12. Agriculture and fishing should be protected against over-consumption and pollution of freshwater by tourism. In order to stem the loss of agricultural land, governments should consider differentiating tax rates between commercial and farm land where relevant.
  13. The link between the erosion of community water access and the privatisation of land for tourism purposes should be recognised; measures to protect customary land rights and water access should be introduced, including those of indigenous peoples and other marginalised groups.

Recommendations for all stakeholders

  1. Stakeholders in government, the donor community, the national and international tourism industry, civil society, and other affected sectors, such as agriculture, should recognise that there is a shared risk to all if water resources in destinations are not managed equitably and sustainably. This shared risk gives rise to a shared responsibility (CEO Water Mandate, 2011) to work together to address the issues, with particular responsibility resting on those inequitably consuming and polluting water resources, and those in positions of power and with greater access to resources.
  2. Relevant stakeholders should consider establishing multistakeholder initiatives in order to foster dialogue and understanding of water issues and impacts, and to develop collaborative approaches to address inequitable access. Measures should be taken to ensure adequate community participation, including of women and other marginalised groups.
  3. Such multi-stakeholder initiatives could include the formulation of destination-specific principles of water equity in tourism. They could serve as points for coordinating with, and providing input to, international donor-funded water and sanitation projects (Slade, 2011).
  4. Such initiatives could serve as a forum for the setting of transparent targets for managing and reducing industry water consumption; knowledge sharing and promotion of good practices; and fostering joint approaches to address resource limitations and training needs (CEO Water Mandate, 2010).
  5. Collaborative approaches whereby tourism businesses assist in the provision of water infrastructure and supply to local communities should be undertaken on an interim basis where no viable alternatives exist. They should form part of a coherent government policy and strategy and be implemented in accordance with clearly defined standards that ensure provision is equitable (Slade, 2011).
  6. Such collaborative approaches should be developed in partnership with local communities, with special consideration given to the needs of women and other users who may be disproportionately impacted by insufficient access to water and sanitation. The development of community protocols around tourism and water resource management, whereby communities set out how they expect other stakeholders to engage with them, could be explored (Slade, 2011).

Recommendations for hotels, tour operators and tourism businesses

  1. Tourism businesses should abide by laws and regulations governing water consumption and management, including monitoring and paying for water use, even where such regulations are poorly enforced.
  2. Tourism businesses should move beyond technical approaches to water conservation and recognise their business responsibility to respect the right to water and sanitation, as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This means taking steps to ensure that business activities, including in supply chains, are not infringing upon these rights, such as through groundwater depletion, pollution, appropriation of public supply, use of unregulated private providers, or privatisation of land. Download our industry briefing. 
  3. The advantages of adopting a rights-based approach should be recognised, in terms of sustainable business practice, managing risks associated with potential complicity in water rights infringements, and promoting wider development in destinations. The UN Guiding Principles, as well as the CEO Water Mandate, offer useful frameworks for change in this regard.
  4. Companies should work towards fulfilling their business responsibility to respect water (and other) rights through a process of human rights due diligence (UNHCR, 2011). This entails identifying potential and actual human rights impacts of their water consumption; integrating findings into company processes; addressing negative impacts; and reporting on performance.
  5. Tourism businesses should be accountable to those whose water access or quality may be compromised by their activities, and support remedial processes for those who have been adversely affected.
  6. Corporate philanthropy or good practice in one area cannot be used to off-set bad practice elsewhere.
  7. Industry stakeholders should play an active role in advocating for, and engaging in, sustainable and equitable water policy and management at destination level, especially by doing so collectively (CEO Water Mandate, 2010). This should include awareness-raising with tourists.
  8. Industry stakeholders should provide relevant data and support the establishment of water resource baselines and tourism carrying capacities in destinations.
  9. Strategies to conserve and reduce water consumption should be broadened, with international tour operators and hotel groups providing further sensitisation, capacity-building and technology transfer to destination counterparts. Existing industry initiatives and toolkits should be utilised in this regard, although their short-comings with regard to the business responsibility to respect water rights should be recognised.

National, regional and international tourism organisations, associations and awards schemes are urged to:

  1. Communicate and engage their members on the need for sustainable, equitable water management, and of their responsibilities to respect the right to water and sanitation.
  2. Foster specific initiatives that seek to establish and promote respect for water and other human rights within the sector. Such initiatives could benefit from engagement with, and provide useful contributions to, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
  3. Work to align the criteria of sustainable tourism schemes and awards with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  4. The UNWTO has a particularly important role in promoting a rights-based approach to water and sanitation as part of truly sustainable, equitable tourism development, and should align its policies, sustainability indicators and guidelines for destination governments and industry stakeholders accordingly.

Recommendations for Civil Society

Local and international civil society has an important role to play in advocacy, capacitybuilding and sensitisation of governments, industry, and the wider public. This includes:

  1. Awareness-raising among local communities, industry, government stakeholders and tourists of water inequity issues; advocating for participative, rights-based approaches to tourism development.
  2. Empowerment of communities to advocate for their water and sanitation rights, and to effectively participate in tourism and water policy-making process and other multi-stakeholder initiatives.
  3. Exploration of opportunities to revive or strengthen community based water management systems, with examples of successful models shared and replicated.


Download the full report | Read about our approach to this research | Read the Principles of Water Equity in Tourism | Read the recommendations from the report | Water Equity in Tourism homepage


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